Light in August is a novel written by William Faulkner. This modern morality tale, containing 506 pages, was published by Vintage Books in 1932. The main protagonists are Joe Christmas, Gail Hightower, Lena Grove and Byron Bunch. Joe Christmas is the main character that the plot revolves around. The story describes his struggling to accept himself and to find his place in the world. The story is set in Mississippi, nearby Mottstown and other nearby locations in the 1920s, with flashbacks. It is told in both third person limited and omniscient.
In the exposition, Joe Christmas is abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as a child. When the facility’s dietician mistakenly believes that Joe has overheard her having sex with a young doctor in her room, she worries she will lose her job. She threatens to expose young Joe’s biracial background and have him transferred to an orphanage for black children. She discusses the plan with the orphanage’s janitor, who kidnaps Joe and takes him to Little Rock. Joe is found and returned, only to be adopted two weeks later by a sternly religious man, Mr.
McEachern, and his wife. Joe’s new foster father beats him frequently. The events of the rising action occur as Joe grows up. He eventually meets Bobbie, a prostitute who works as a waitress in the nearby town. When Mr. McEachern catches his son at a dance with Bobbie, they get into a fight, and Joe kills his father by smashing a chair over his head. Abandoned by Bobbie, Joe begins living a life on the run and wanders for over fifteen years, eventually ending up in Jefferson. In Jefferson, he stays in the cabin on Joanna Burden’s property, and the two fall in love.
Their relationship, however, is dysfunctional and they are often violent and ignore each other for long periods of time. In the climax, he kills her with a razor after she attempts to kill him with a pistol. In the resolution, a bounty hunter named Percy Grimm tracks Christmas down and shoots, kills, and castrates him in a Reverend’s kitchen. In this novel, the main character makes a certain decision that affects the entire plot. The critical decision that Joe Christmas must make is to either kill Joanna Burden or to spare her life.
Although he makes this decision quickly, this causes everyone to pursue him. He also could have surrendered when he was discovered to be the murderer, but he did not. In this novel, each character’s story line was difficult to follow. The author explains each character’s introduction to the plot one at a time. This story jumps to a different character in each chapter and slowly guides each character to a point where they all relate in some way. Readers must remind themselves of who is related to whom and why they are there. The descriptions are detailed enough to help guide the readers along the plot.