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Literary Analysis Essay on Light in August by William Faulkner

3 pages
570 words
George Washington University
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Like art, literature gives authors the poetic license to address some of the pertinent issues in the society. Some of these issues require a high level of creativity and subtlety in addressing them without courting many controversies. Therefore, authors in the depiction of themes such as racism create characters and fit them within plots and subplots in their stories that mirror what is happening in the society. For instance, addressing the issue of race and what it means being biracial, many authors have written stories and books but none matches the eccentricity and subtle nature of William Faulkner in his 1932 novel Light in August. Faulkners novel uses various characters to expound on the theme of race and what it means to be biracial in a world hit hard by an identity crisis.

Faulkners novel is set during the turn of the 20th century when America had legalized the famous Jim Crow laws that advocated for racial segregation in the country. Blacks are pitted against whites. And, those who find themselves in the middle of this struggle are the biracial children, who had nowhere to fit in the American society; neither black nor white. Joe Christmas, the protagonist in the novel is a perfect example of a rootless American due to his biracial status. He is thus in search of his true identity and this level of search and independence makes him stereotyped as ruthless and proud. While being mistaken for white, Christmas is in a perpetual struggle for identity, an issue that robs him of the happiness and serenity he deserves in the society. By using Christmas, Faulkner wants the world to understand what it means being a biracial citizen in a world so divided along racial lines.

Social alienation is a common feature in racial societies. Individuals who do not fit within a given race are treated as misfits and with profound contempt by those from the opposite race. Therefore, it is a society of racial struggle and will to fit. Faulkner exemplifies the issue of social alienation by contrasting the character of Christmas with that of Lena Grove. She is an orphan and a stranger in the town. While the society treats Christmas with anger and violence, Grove receives much generosity from the towns folk in her travails. The difference in treatment of the two characters posits the spectrum of the heightened level of social alienation in most societies.

Class struggles go hand in hand with racial struggles. In the case of the novel Light in August, Faulkner foregrounds the cultural and class struggles in the Southern states. He presents both classes; upper and lower classes of the white southerners who are in a perpetual struggle to survive in the southern economy suffering from the aftermaths of war. All the characters in the novel are from the lower class apart from Joanna Burden and Reverend Hightower, who belong to higher echelons of the social class. The poor characters are united by religion and poverty, and this is evident in the manner in which they regard unwed women like Lena Grove with contempt and disdain.

It is thus evident that Faulkners novel uses various characters to how race creates other problems such as poverty and puritanism as depicted in the aggressive treatment they accord unmarried women like Lena Grove. Also, biracial characters go through many struggles as they try to find their identity in a polarized and racial society.

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