Light in August

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Novel by William Faulkner, published in 1932.

Joe Christmas is orphaned when his mother dies in childbirth and her father, Eupheus Hines, murders her husband, believing him to be black. The elder Hines leaves the infant at a white orphange on Christmas night (the source of Joe's surname) but from the age of five until he is 18 the boy is reared austerely by a puritanical farmer. Striking and perhaps killing this guardian, Joe embarks on 15 years of compulsive wandering among blacks and whites, hating both, until he settles near Jefferson, Miss., as the lover of Joanna Burden, a reclusive white woman from New England who considers blacks to be “the white race's doom and curse for its sins.” In time her attempts to convert Joe to her intense religious beliefs so infuriate him that he cuts her throat and attempts to conceal the murder by burning down her house. Lucas Burch, Joe's white partner in a bootlegging business, is thought to be the murderer but turns off suspicion by telling the sheriff that Joe is black and successfully accusing him of the crime. Joe's grandfather Hines, who fanatically thinks of himself as an avenging angel of the white race, stirs up a lynch mob from which Joe temporarily escapes, but when found he is shot and castrated.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

William Faulkner (1897—1962) American novelist

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