Light in August by Alwyn Berland Summary
Light in August is William Faulkner's seventh novel, but the fifth set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Published in 1932, the novel is a compelling portrait of Southern society. It traces the history of a group of characters shaped by and responding to the religious, cultural, and racial traditions of the American South. Faulkner contrasts the story of Joe Christmas, whose unclear parentage makes him a target for the town's hatred, with the placid tale of Lena Grove's search for her lover. While Joe's story is created by prejudice, hatred, and mistrust, Lena's story is one of simple country people whose honor, courage, and affections are uncorrupted by either the past or the modern world. Alwyn Berland illuminates the relationship between these contrasting stories, demonstrating how Southern Calvinism, both as a theme and as an unconscious influence on Faulkner, is the key to a small cluster of themes that connects seemingly unrelated threads of narrative. Berland's study offers a detailed and accessible examination of Faulkner's style, and discusses how his modernist and experimental techniques are related to his vision of human experience. Berland places Faulkner's achievement in the context of the ideas that interested him, Southern literary tradition, and his influences on his contemporaries and later writers. The only booklength study of this novel available, Berland's work will be of great value to Faulkner scholars, students of Southern literature, and those interested in the development of the novel in the twentieth century.