William Faulkner Light In August Analysis

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Set in the post-Reconstruction South and focusing on the social interactions between white men and women and black men and women, William Faulkner’s Light in August explores the idea of the outside world’s contribution to a person’s identity and self-perception. As his life progresses, Joe Christmas, a man with supposed black parentage, faces people claiming he is black, which correlates with being subhuman, and implanting ideas that his heritage controls who he is and how he will act. Although Uncle Doc Hines uses his incoherent stories to attest to Joe’s black parentage, Faulkner gives no sufficient evidence that Joe has any black blood in his body; yet, all the characters believe he does. Joe’s encounters with other characters bring him…show more content…
Before the reader is offered insight into Joe’s thoughts in this scenario, Faulkner uses the conceptions of the other workers at the mill. These men comment that Joe “did not look like a professional hobo in his professional rags, but there was something definitely rootless about him…And that he carried his knowledge with him always as though it were a banner, with a quality ruthless, lonely, and almost proud” (Faulkner, 31-32). As Owen Robinson explains in his article “Liable to be anything: The Creation of Joe Christmas in Faulkner’s Light in August,” the reader is “inclined to come from this passage with an initial impression of Joe, but we are not ‘given’ this by the authorial voice…we are presented with a dialogue out of which we must come to our own conclusions” (129). Not only does this passage represent some of the external ideas other characters have about Joe, but, as Robinson points out, it also exemplifies how quickly we rely on other people’s opinions. If the reader already bears an impression of Joe without having any insight into his mind, Joe himself never had a chance to overcome the impressions of others and create his own identity free of the projections of
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