Light in August is a multidimensional story in which, through the life of the main character, William Faulkner presented both socio-economic reality of the American South and a psychological picture of the protagonist. It is an equivocal novel, which was written in the Thirties of the 20th Century, during the time of racial segregation.
African-Americans achieved full citizenship in 1964 (Civil Rights Act of 1964), and for that reason, the meaning of the story, which described the struggle for rights and freedom (especially in the context of race), should not be easy to comprehend. The plot is constructed in such a way that through the protagonist's life, the pathology of social relationship is demonstrated. The logic of the novel is disturbed by the protagonist's behaviour which at first glance seems to be sociopathic.72 Only a thorough analysis of the text reveals that these features of personality, which seem to be socially harmful, are in fact the result of the destructive social structure.
One of the layers in the novel is focused on the legal system which prevails in that reality, in which white, male Puritans have full citizenship and the power of life and death over women and blacks. The law, which originated from colonial beginnings of the United States, was a source for stereotyping black Americans as inferior beings. When Hume and Kant wrote about white supremacy, they relied on those stereotypes, which did not exist before the rise of the great plantations of the American South.
The novel reveals the devastating effect of the system on the social circles. The protagonist's life in the McEcharn’s family or his relationship with Joanna, are completely dominated by the values, which are the essence of that order. Individuals, who do not fit into the prevailing pattern, are pushed to the margins of social life (Hightower) or commit suicide (Hightower’s wife, Christmas).
The fundamental part of the story is based on the personality of the main character who seems to be inconsistent and illogical. Joe Christmas is a metaphor for differences between people and for an individual's fight for acceptance in the world, in which the struggle is doomed to failure. His loneliness, opposition to reality, his trying to live according to his nature, and his love towards a woman whom (in spite of their sexual relationship) is unable to win, transform him into a romantic hero.
The social mechanism of racial division is the foundation of the system. In this context, the tone of Light in August is pessimistic. As humans, we are different from each other, and we are doomed to failure in the fight against the order which is built on the use of these differences. However, yielding to it, we become its slaves and also accept defeat, because these differences are what makes us humans. By rejecting them, we renounce that part of ourselves which is creative and fertile (Christmas' castration scene). We condemn ourselves to a slow death since genetic diversity (expressed in the novel through the symbol of blood) is essential for the survival and development of human species.
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