Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Faulkner extends the meaning of “Dry September” beyond an account of racial violence in the South by including Hawkshaw, who wants to “get the sheriff and do this thing right.” Hawkshaw, “a thin, sand-colored man with a mild face,” is contrasted with the heavy and powerful McLendon, who “had commanded troops at the front in France and had been decorated for valor.” To emphasize the contrast between Hawkshaw and McLendon, the narrator states: “They looked like men of different races.”

Faulkner ironically suggests that though Hawkshaw and McLendon both have white skin, they do not belong to the same race. Hawkshaw considers Will Mayes a human being who deserves justice. To McLendon, he is a Negro, an object on which he can safely unleash his brutality. Society approved McLendon’s violence during the war, and in Jefferson, his violence against a black man is still sanctioned.