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Light in August (1932)

by William Faulkner

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,959101846 (3.99)1 / 505
Joe Christmas does not know whether he is black or white. Faulkner makes of Joe's tragedy a powerful indictment of racism; at the same time Joe's life is a study of the divided self and becomes a symbol of 20th century man. Light in August is the story of Lena Grove's search for the father of her unborn child, and features one of Faulkner's most memorable characters: Joe Christmas, a desperate drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
Published in 1932, this classic American southern gothic novel, set during Prohibition, follows the intersecting lives of five people not following a traditional path in life. They are viewed as outsiders because they do not adhere to social norms. Joe Christmas is an orphan who is abused as a child and believes he is of mixed racial ancestry but has no proof. He is searching for his place in the world. Lena Grove is in an unwed pregnant young woman looking for the father of her unborn child. Gail Hightower is a disgraced reverend who is plagued by his family’s past and his wife’s scandalous death. Joanna Burden, now living alone on a large property, is part of an abolitionist family that has been ostracized for years by their rural southern community. Byron Bunch is a nondescript, poor, hardworking, quiet man whom no one notices. The plot centers around a criminal act of murder and arson. Themes include the search for identity and how individuals are oppressed by racism, patriarchy, and religious zealotry.

The book is written in third person omniscient. It focuses on one character, then shifts to another. It is not chronological. The storyline goes forward and backward in time fluidly, catching the reader up on what has been missed after focusing closely on what happens to one specific character. It sounds convoluted but it really works well in keeping the reader’s interest. Faulkner uses unusual pairings of words, running them together to create vivid images.

This novel is mostly dark, violent, tragic, and sad, with only a faint flicker of hope. It requires a certain maturity to assimilate the metaphors, religious allegory, and complexities inherent in this story. I tried reading Faulkner when I was young, but most of it flew over my head. I think it requires a breadth of life experience to appreciate his work. I have not read his entire canon, but this book would be a better starting point than The Sound and the Fury or Absalom, Absalom! ( )
1 vote Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Monday mornings at the planing mill:
"some of the other workers were family men and some were bachelors and they were of different ages and they led a catholic variety of lives, yet on Monday morning they all came to work with a kind of gravity, almost decorum. some of them were young, and they drank and gambled on Saturday night, and even went to Memphis now and then. yet on Monday morning they came quietly and soberly to work, in clean overalls and clean shirts, waiting quietly until the whistle blew and then going quietly to work, as though there were still something of Sabbath in the over lingering air which established a tenet that, no matter what a man had done with his sabbath, to come quiet and clean to work on Monday morning was no more than seemly and right to do."

There's a fire in Jackson, the day Lena arrives, looking for the father of her baby:
" 'we could see it from the wagon before we got to town," she says. 'it's a right big fire.'
'it's a right big old house. It's been there a long time. don't nobody live in it but one lady, by herself. I reckon there are folks in this town will call it a judgment on her, even now. she is a Yankee. her folks come down here in the reconstruction, to stir up the n******. Two of them got killed doing it. They say she is still mixed up with the n******. visits them when they are sick, like they was white. won't have a cook because it would have to be a n***** cook. folks say she claims that n****** are the same as white folks. That's why folks don't never go out there. Except one.' "

Christmas grows up sheltered, knowing nothing about women:
"but he and the other boys talked about girls. Perhaps some of them – the one who arranged with the negro girl that afternoon, for instance – knew. 'they all want to,' he told the others. 'but sometimes they can't.' the others did not know that. they did not know that all girls wanted to, let alone that there were times when they could not. They thought differently. but to admit that they did not know the latter would be to admit that they had not discovered the former. So they listened while the boy told them. 'it's something that happens to them once a month.' he described his idea of the physical ceremony. perhaps he knew. Anyway he was graphic enough, convincing enough. if he had tried to describe it as a mental state, something which he only believed, they would not have listened. but he drew a picture, physical, actual, to be discerned by the sense of smell and even of sight. It moved them: the temporary and abject helplessness of that which tantalized and frustrated desire; the smooth and Superior shape in which volition dwelled doomed to be at stated and inescapable intervals victims of periodical filth. that was how the boy told it, with the other five listening quietly, looking at one another, questioning and secret."

The first woman Christmas has sex with:
"Usually they met outside, went somewhere else or just loitered on the way to where she lived. perhaps he believed up to the last that he had suggested it. then one night she did not meet him where he waited. he waited until the clock in the courthouse struck 12. Then he went on to where she lived. He had never done that before, so even then he could not have said that she had ever forbidden him to come there unless she was with him. but he went there that night, expecting to find the house dark and asleep. The house was dark, but it was not asleep. He knew that, that beyond the Dark Shades of her room people were not asleep and that she was not there alone. How he knew it he could not have said. neither would he admit what he knew. 'it's just max,' he thought. 'it's just max.' But he knew better. He knew that there was a man in the room with her."

Christmas runs away from home and kills his stepfather's horse ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
2 livros o outro é da editora Abril /Controljornal
  Jmonc | Oct 4, 2022 |
Once more another faulking Faulkner because I've become addicted! Just like the previous book I finished (The Sound and the Fury) this Southern Goth tale is just as bizarre. However, I didn't like this book as much as the last, but I still liked it enough. It felt too long and it wasn't the same writing style, a little more basic. I did like the plot and the characters better in this book though. I think I liked the two Joe's the best because you saw Faulkner's humor with them. You have Brown (the white man) and Christmas (the half-black man)...I saw what you did there. Lena Grove also made the book interesting traveling the South pregnant in search for the father of her unborn child. At times this reminded me of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood maybe with all the religious themes. If you don't like the stream of consciousness style and still want to try Faulkner out I suggest starting with this book maybe, that is if you don't mind a long read. It's worth it for the characters and the bizarre plot. ( )
  Ghost_Boy | Aug 25, 2022 |
Reason read: alpha challenge (F). And it’s August so why not. I’ve owned this for awhile. I like Faulkner but this might not be my favorite. This one jumps around a bit and doesn’t overdo the SOC so much but it is still hard at times to follow because of the jumping back and forth and changing narrators. I don’t even know where to begin to review it. The main characters are a pregnant woman, a man who can pass as white but he believes he is of mixed ethnicity. These two people are connected by another man. Themes of race, class, religion abound. ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 23, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (61 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Faulkner, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brooks, CleanthIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coindreau, Maurice-EdgarTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fein, FranzÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frielinghaus, HelmutÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Höbel, SusanneÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoel, SigurdTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaila, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kristensen, Sven MøllerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Patton, WillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Sitting beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, 'I have come from Alabama: a fur piece.'
Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.
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Joe Christmas does not know whether he is black or white. Faulkner makes of Joe's tragedy a powerful indictment of racism; at the same time Joe's life is a study of the divided self and becomes a symbol of 20th century man. Light in August is the story of Lena Grove's search for the father of her unborn child, and features one of Faulkner's most memorable characters: Joe Christmas, a desperate drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.

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