Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The images contained in the first sentence of “Dry September” establish the story’s scheme of imagery: “Through the bloody September twilight, aftermath of sixty-two rainless days, it had gone like a fire in dry grass—the rumor, the story, whatever it was.” The equally important image of a “bloody September twilight” foreshadows the violence that will erupt.

Faulkner intensifies the horror of the murder by using images that evoke a sense of impending violence and death. As the barber hurries up the street after McLendon and the others, the streetlights glare “in rigid and violent suspension in the lifeless air.” The “bloody September twilight” has passed into evening: “The day had died in a pall of dust; above the darkened square, shrouded by the spent dust, the sky was as clear as the inside of a brass bell.” As the car moves along the road, its motion is like that of “an extinct furnace blast: cooler, but utterly dead.” The imagery and diction of violence and death intensify the impact of the story. Later, as the “brass bell” begins to toll the death of Will Mayes, “the wan hemorrhage of the moon” increases.

The violence of the “bloody September twilight” has burned itself out; only the red dust remains. Hawkshaw could not prevent the murder of an innocent black man, but he lives and can limp home. The “eternal dust” absorbs the “glare and the sound” of McLendon and the others. Hawkshaw’s race of humane and rational men may fail to control the violence and inhumanity of McLendon’s race, but the dust of the land and of all men absorbs them: “They went on; the dust swallowed them; the glare and the sound died away. The dust of them hung for a while, but soon the eternal dust absorbed it again.” Faulkner suspends one violent moment in a southern town, but the eternal cycle of life and death, of timeless motion, can absorb even the moments of violence.

Dry September Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974.

Brooks, Cleanth. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1963.

Gray, Richard. The Life of William Faulkner: A Critical Biography. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1994.

Hoffman, Frederick, and Olga W. Vickery, eds. William Faulkner: Three Decades of Criticism. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960.

Inge, M. Thomas, ed. Conversations with William Faulkner. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.

Labatt, Blair. Faulkner the Storyteller. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005.

The Mississippi Quarterly 50 (Summer, 1997).

Parini, Jay. One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

Peek, Charles A., and Robert W. Hamblin, eds. A Companion to Faulkner Studies. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Rovit, Earl, and Arthur Waldhorn, eds. Hemingway and Faulkner in Their Time. New York: Continuum, 2005.

Singal, Daniel J. William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Vickery, Olga W. The Novels of William Faulkner. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959.

Volpe, Edmond L. A Reader’s Guide to William Faulkner: The Novels. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2003.

Volpe, Edmond L. A Reader’s Guide to William Faulkner: The Short Stories. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2004.

Williamson, Joel. William Faulkner and Southern History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.