Scholars at Wright



Light in August takes place in the Deep South during the 1930s and tells the compelling story of Joe Christmas, Lena Grove, and Reverend Gail Hightower. Christmas is an orphan of ambiguous ancestry who believes himself to be part black. Many of the other characters, including Doc Hines, Joanna Burden and Byron Bunch, play parts in the cycles of racism, violence and betrayal swirling around Christmas. Issues of community, identity and repressed sexuality are also explored as the reader watches Christmas' struggle through life in a world under the influence of Calvinistic religion and economic decline. In the end, hope for the future of the South is both challenged and suggested through the death of Christmas and relationship of Lena Grove and Byron Bunch.

Published in 1932, Light in August is one of Faulkner's best novels. His writing technique sometimes uses a complicated "stream-of- consciousness" style which gives the reader direct access to the characters minds however fragmented and confused they may be. He also employs oxymorons and long, convoluted, ungrammatical sentences which can sometimes be challenging, yet his style is a product of thoughtful deliberation, not of haste.


Professor Ed Mogul, Wright College, explored the viewpoint, narrative tone and modernist qualities of Light in August. He also examined the ways in which the word light can be interpreted in the context of the novel. He began with a comparison of the viewpoint in both the novel and the Bible and followed with a discussion of how the structure in Light in August shows several 20th century traits such as a focus on maturation of a character and an informal tone. The end of his lecture explored the contrasting darkness of the events of the novel to the “lightness” suggested by the title.


Professor Peter Kaye, Northwestern University outlined the quality of evil in its many manifestations. He first discussed the violence experienced by several of the characters, including Joanna Burden and Joe Christmas. The underlying psychology of the characters, which involved repressed sexuality, physical and emotional abuse, obsession, a reality model based on sin and an utter inability to trust and be intimate, was shown to be the foundation of the story. He concludes by asking whether the ending of the novel suggests any solutions to the myriad sufferings its characters and ponders the unexpected sources of justice and religious virtues.


Professor Michael Petersen, Wright College, discussed the role of the female characters and explored the question of Faulkner's misogyny. He noted the absence of positive male female relationships in the story and explored what stereotypes may be assigned to the women based on these relationships. Also, he examined how the younger women conveyed more trouble and threat than the older women did.

  To register or for inquiries, email Professor Edward Mogul at 


© 2011
Scholars at Wright