Light in August Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

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Describe Joe Christmas's relationships with women. In what ways is it different from men?

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Debby Lowell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Joe Christmas is a character who is portrayed as accursed, unstable, and always searching for a home. He tries living with a black woman, but his mind recoils. He flees through endless streets and cities, remaining ultimately rootless. When he discovers that not all white women mind cohabiting with blacks, it becomes a source of conflict for him and his relations with women throughout the novel. This is because race and gender are intertwining spheres of inquiry in this novel. Joe is a character who bears a conflict between "black" and "white"—he seeks the spiritual uplift of whiteness but also wants to expel from himself his white blood and way of being. The recurring motif of the alienated mixed-race character sets the stage for Joe’s conflicting relations with women in the novel.

For example, when the white Yankee woman (Mrs. Burden) he has been living with hurts his feelings and makes him feel his alienation as a (mixed) “Negro,” he grows furious, exhibiting a display of...

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