Light in August | Study Guide

William Faulkner

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Light in August | Chapter 18 | Summary



Byron goes to the boardinghouse to settle accounts. He had no money due, and his things are gathered for him. He then tells the sheriff that Joe Brown needs to see Lena Grove and find out about the baby. Byron pretends to be willing to let go of Lena and leave town.

The deputy takes Brown to the cabin where Lena is and sends him inside—telling him nothing about who waits there. He sees Lena and promptly commences lying, claiming he sent for her and that he'd meant to have the cabin ready for her. Lena mentions, "There is a preacher here. That has already come to see me." She presses him for plans for the future, and he continues to lie. Then he tiptoes to the window and climbs out. He finds a young black boy to carry a note to the sheriff asking for his reward for helping to find Joe Christmas.

Byron catches up to Brown near the railroad tracks where Brown intended to wait for his reward to be brought to him. They fight, at Byron's insistence. Byron expects to lose, and he does. Brown then hops a train. The chapter closes with Byron learning about some "excitement" in Jefferson: "That nigger, Christmas. They killed him."


Much as with the initial revelation of Joanna's death, the first revelation of Joe Christmas's death is a simple statement. The details are absent. Like the fire, it is merely noted in passing.

Both "pursuits"—Lena Grove's pursuit of Joe Brown and the sheriff's pursuit of the fugitive Joe Christmas—have been resolved. Lena has found Brown, and the sheriff has apprehended Joe Christmas. Christmas is now dead. Lena's pursuit of Joe Brown, however, is not over. Joe Brown stands before her and lies. Lena asks about his promise he made to be with her, "When will it be, Lucas?" She stresses that she was patient before, but she has "a right to worry now" that she has a child. Feeling trapped, Brown leaves the cabin, slipping out through the window just as Lena did to see him and to leave her brother's house. Significantly, when Brown leaves, he moves "almost like a long snake." In a text with so much overt Christian reference, the symbolism of the snake from the Bible's book of Genesis—representing deceit, evil, and the introduction of sin to the world—cannot be overlooked.

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