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Light in August | Study Guide

William Faulkner

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Light in August | Chapter 14 | Summary



The deputy tells the sheriff that there's "somebody out there in that cabin." He explains that a woman from Alabama is living there and is soon to have a baby. Byron Bunch, he says, is camped there and looking after her. One of the men who had been living there is the father. "It's Christmas, is it?" the sheriff asks. The deputy answers that it's not, it's Joe Brown, whose real name is Lucas Burch. They decide not to tell Brown that Lena is there.

A black man arrives to tell the sheriff about a "man in white" whose "face was not black" who showed up at a revival meeting. The man, Joe Christmas, acted violently, striking people and cursing loudly. Joe knocked over a "seventy year old grandpappy" and his grandson, Roz, a big man, had to be restrained from going after him. Roz's grandfather left immediately after the incident and ran to report the incident to the sheriff.

Joe is still in the building when Roz breaks free. Just as Roz comes through the door, Joe hits him hard with the leg of a bench, leaving him sprawled and unconscious on the floor.

Joe hides out, barely eating and ultimately losing track of time. After a week, he catches a ride into Mottstown, which is 30 miles from Jefferson.


The narrative of Light in August is, in true Faulknerian style, filtered by the perceptions of characters. It is up to the reader to draw conclusions, including the determination of Joe's racial identity, which is left deliberately ambiguous. When the information on Joe's appearance at a revival is brought to the sheriff, it includes the description of Joe as "the white man." The description reflects what the black man thinks, and he is concerned that Roz, a black man, killed Joe. At that time in the South black men did not stand up to white men; for an African American to murder a white man would be unthinkable.

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