The novel is rich in symbolism. A few symbols that come to mind that are present in most characters' stories are food, money, and the road. Food, in the novel, seems to represent the characters' relationship to society. Since each character is an outcast in some way, we see their...
The novel is rich in symbolism. A few symbols that come to mind that are present in most characters' stories are food, money, and the road. Food, in the novel, seems to represent the characters' relationship to society. Since each character is an outcast in some way, we see their perspectives on their status through food. Christmas rebels. He tells Byron to "keep your muck" when Bryon offers the starving Christmas his lunch at the planing mill. He refuses to accept Mrs. McEachern's food, throwing it on the floor when she offers it to him. At Burden's house, he again throws food against the wall, rebelling against Burden's increasing control of him. Much can be learned about Christmas through the incidents that involve food. He is rebellious, hostile, and alienated. He will not accept handouts, charity in any way, and will not let himself be indebted to anyone. Lena, on the other hand, accepts food offered to her by others, but she "et dainty." She is conscious of how she is viewed by others and though not completely comfortable eating with others, she stays serene and calm. She even offers her sardines to another. The way others react to her in these food incidents shows to some extent their judgment of her. People are kind, but judgmental of her state as pregnant and unwed.
Money symbolizes more a system of rewards and punishments. Christmas is bribed with a silver dollar at the orphanage, an act that leads to his subsequent lack of trust for women, whom he sees as unpredictable. He stands up to McEachern when he sells his heifer and refuses to accept McEachern's beatings anymore. And, of course, it is the reward money offered by Miss Burden's family that results in Christmas' ultimate capture and death. But financial terms become much more symbolic of Faulkner's major ideas in Byron's discussions with Hightower. Byron distinguishes good and bad men. The bad men are the ones who do not pay the "bill." The good men are the ones who pay the bill when it comes around. In this way, the bill represents man's responsibility to his fellow man. The men with morals, like Byron, will attempt to act responsibly where there is a need, even if the need (or bill) is not his.
And of course the road is important in many of the stories as well: Christmas goes in a circle; Hightower takes the short walk and to Lena's cabin and back again; Lena and Byron head toward Tennessee at the novel's end. Their paths in many ways mirror their progress, or lack of it, in finding the "light in August," or to "live in peace with his fellow man." Christmas only goes round in circles and never really gets closer to this goal; Hightower does come out of his isolation and returns a new man, but maybe too old and weak to do much else; Lena and Byron are moving on a path that will lead them to home and family.