What is the oral tradition of Wiliam Faulkner's "That Evening Sun"?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of William Faulkner's short story "That Evening Sun" is a reference to a black spiritual.  The first line of the song is "Lord, how I hate to see that evening sun go down."  The history of black spirituals is rooted in the oral tradition of slavery--slaves often sang songs infused with metaphors and symbols while they worked on plantations so that their masters would not be privy to their communication.  In the aforementioned spiritual, the evening sun refers to death.  At the end of Faulkner's story, it is clear that Jesus is lurking somewhere outside Nancy's house waiting to kill her at some point during the night.  So, Nancy fears that her own "sun" might set before she is able to see the next dawn.