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Literature / Light in August

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Light in August is a novel written by William Faulkner in 1932. It is an exploration of racial and biracial issues in the Southern United States and follows the story of an orphaned biracial child who is adopted by abusive parents who are fanatically religious. Joe grows up with a deep resentment of all things religious and may even kill his girlfriend, Joanna, when she turns to religion to deal with their problems.


Contains Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: Mr. McEachern is abusive towards Joe and Mrs. McEachern is something of an enabler, causing Joe to hate her even more than Mr. McEachern.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Near the end of the novel, the narrative focus suddenly shifts to Percy Grimm, who has been of no significance to the story up to that point (but who will soon become very significant).
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Subverted despite Lena's undying hope.
  • Domestic Abuser: Mr. McEachern.
  • The Fundamentalist: Mr. McEachern.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Joe Christmas, whose ethnicity no one is initially sure of.
  • Happy Ending: Although it's not a classic happy ending, there is a little hope—Lena is actively searching for her place in the world rather than constantly running and denying like Joe Christmas. This suggests that maybe her life won't be so tragic, that maybe she'll be able to begin again.
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  • Identical Stranger: Joanna's namesake is her father's first wife, Juana, who looked almost exactly like his dead mother.
  • Karma Houdini: Joe Brown is forced to flee town, but he basically gets away with everything he does, including possibly Joanna's murder, for which he was just as viable of a suspect as the person who actually took the blame for it.
  • Significant Monogram: Joe Christmas. And he's 33!


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