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Light in August | Study Guide

William Faulkner

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Light in August | Chapter 21 | Summary



This final chapter opens with a "furniture repairer and dealer who recently made a trip into Tennessee." He tells his wife he gave Lena Grove, Byron Bunch, and the baby a ride into Tennessee. He notes that the two are unmarried and that the baby is "not yearling size." He lets them spend the night in "the bare boards in the truck." The driver hears them talking and learns they don't know which way Joe Brown ran. He also hears Byron tell Lena that they "might travel on like this from one truck to another and one state to another for the rest of their lives" without finding Brown. Lena listens "placid and calm," and Byron "[gets] up from the log and walk[s] away." Later that night Byron creeps into the truck, and the man says he "heard one kind of astonished sound she made." Lena rebuffs Byron and chastises him for almost waking the baby. Byron leaves, but the next day he returns to join her—"standing at the side of the road when we come around the curve." They continue on, and the novel closes with Lena saying with mild surprise, "We ain't been coming from Alabama but two months, and now it's already Tennessee."


The novel's main characters have functioned outside mainstream society, and Faulkner has brought their stories to a close. Joe Christmas, Joanna Burden, Reverend Hightower's wife, and Milly Hines are all dead. Each of these characters had sexual relationships outside of marriage.

Lena Grove, however, is the exception. She is alive, with a child, and she is unmarried. The novel leaves her largely where she began—seeking her child's father. She is not promiscuous; she rebuffs Byron's advances. Motherhood has made her less sexual. Ending the novel on a hopeful note, she has attained the facsimile of a traditional family, with a man who stands by her and her child.

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