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Light in August

joe christmas burch lena

a novel by William Faulkner, published in 1932. The central character, Joe Christmas, is the son of Milly Hines and a circus man. Milly's father, Eupheus Hines, murders Milly's lover, believing him to be partly negro, and she dies in childbirth. On Christmas (the origin of Joe's surname) night Hines leaves his hated baby grandson on the steps of an orphanage for white children. At the age of five, Joe is forced to leave the home after witnessing two staff members making love. He then goes to the household of an obsessedly puritanical farmer, McEachern, who beats him. When he is 18, Joe quarrels with McEachern, perhaps killing him. After fifteen years of wandering, he arrives in Jefferson and becomes the lover of a reclusive white woman, Joanna Burden. He also becomes involved with a fellow vagrant, Joe Brown (also called Lucas Burch). Joanna's attempts to convert Joe to religion so enrage him that he cuts her throat and sets fire to her house. Lena Grove arrives in Jefferson in search of Burch by whom she has become pregnant (‘Light in August’ is a country expression for pregnancy.) She is led to Byron Bunch (due to his name's similarity to Burch) who befriends her. Meanwhile both Burch and Joe Christmas are wanted by the police after the murder of Joanna Burden. Confronted with Lena and the child, Burch flees, while Joe Christmas is caught, and his old grandfather, steadfast in his hatred of him, stirs up a mob to lynch him. Joe Christmas takes refuge in the house of Hightower, the clergyman, but is shot and castrated by Percy Grimm, a crazed racist. Byron Bunch and Lena stay together and journey on through the Southern countryside.

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