Light in August Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Yoknapatawpha County

Yoknapatawpha County (YOK-nuh-puh-TAW-fuh). Imaginary Mississippi county in which William Faulkner set all his fiction from his third novel on. A map of the county that he drew for his novel Absalom, Absalom! (1936) provides details about where the events in his novels occur. These details make it clear that Yoknapatawpha corresponds to Mississippi’s real Lafayette County, in which Faulkner lived. Light in August is also set in Yoknapatawpha, with Lena Grove leading the action into Jefferson at the beginning and out at the end.

Jefferson

Jefferson. Seat of Yoknapatawpha. Almost all the action of the novel set in the present takes place in and around Jefferson. Byron Bunch and Joe Christmas work at the sawmill, Reverend Hightower lives on a quiet street, Byron Bunch and Lena live in the boardinghouse, and Joanna Burden lives on the outskirts of town. Lena literally walks into Jefferson in the beginning of the novel and walks out again at the end, providing the frame for the rest of the events. As she enters the town, a fire burns in the distance—at Joanna Burden’s house, where Joanna has been murdered. The rest of the novel provides the background explaining what has led up to this moment.

Reverend Hightower observes the town through his window and receives news of the outside world through his visitor, Byron Bunch. Hightower’s carefully maintained isolation...

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Light in August Historical Context

Modernism

American literature written in the 1920s and early 1930s was dominated by a group of writers who were...

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Light in August Literary Style

Disruption of Chronology

The events in this plot are not presented in chronological order. Many of the characters are...

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Light in August Literary Techniques

Stylistically, Light in August is easier to read than some of Faulkner's other novels. It does not have, for example, the time shifts...

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Light in August Ideas for Group Discussions

In Light in August Faulkner explores Southern, and sometimes American, values regarding race, sexuality, regional origin, and...

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Light in August Social Concerns

Through a fictional community's response to those who defy its values, Light in August dissects Southern, and sometimes American,...

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Light in August Compare and Contrast

  • 1930s: After a decade of buying on credit, Americans find themselves in the grips of a severe economic depression. African...

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Light in August Topics for Further Study

  • Choose one of the themes discussed in the fiction section and write a poem or a short story that explores that theme in a different way....

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Light in August Literary Precedents

As a victim of Southern racial, religious, and social mores, Joe Christmas cries out for social reform in a way that does not appear in...

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Light in August Related Titles

Several characters in Light in August appear in other Yoknapatawpha novels and short stories. Joanna Burden's relatives appear briefly...

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Light in August Adaptations

According to James B. Meriwether in The Literary Career of William Faulkner, the motion picture rights to Light in August were sold,...

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Light in August Media Adaptations

  • Random House produced an audio version of the novel, read by Scott Brick, in 2005. As of 2006, no film versions had been made.

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Light in August What Do I Read Next?

  • Joseph Blotner's Faulkner: A Biography (1974) presents a fascinating chronicle of Faulkner's life and an insightful analysis of his...

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Light in August Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Brooks, Cleanth. “The Community and the Pariah.” William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1963.

Feldman, Robert L. “In Defense of Reverend Hightower: It Is Never Too Late.” College Language Association Journal 29, no. 3 (March, 1986): 352-367.

Inge, M. Thomas, ed. The Merrill Studies in “Light in August.” Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill, 1971. Good collection of articles on Christ imagery and symbolism, myth and ritual, and the “Frozen Moment,” which clarifies Faulkner’s use of contradictions...

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Light in August Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources

Beck, Warren, "Faulkner's Point of View," in College English, Vol. 2, No. 8, May 1941, pp. 736-49.

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