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Alienation from Society in Light in August

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Nate Levitt

on 14 March 2014

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Transcript of Alienation from Society in Light in August

"He would not resign. The elders asked the church board to recall him. But after the story, the pictures in the papers and all, no other town would have him either. There was nothing against him personally, they all insisted. He was just unlucky. He was just born unlucky. So the people quit coming to church at all." - Page 69
Hightower's real rejection from society begins with the scandals and death of his wife. After his wife dies, Hightower is denied a spot in the church and a spot in society. With many vicious rumors spreading, nobody will have anything to do with the crazy reverend. Not only is Hightower emotionally and psychologically torn, but he also gets beat by white supremacists for having an African-American maid. The reverend even gets tormented by the press and becomes front page news story for his scandalous actions, even though he never really did anything wrong. In just about a week, Hightower loses his wife, his position in the church, and worst of all he is ousted from society completely. However, Hightower does purchase a house in Jefferson and refuses to move, even after harsh beatings and many threats.
Joe Christmas
"At seventeen, looking back he could see now the long series of trivial, clumsy, vain efforts born of frustration and fumbling and dumb instinct: the dishes she would prepare for him in secret and then insist on his accepting and eating them in secret, when he did not want them and he knew that McEachern would not care anyway; the times when, like tonight, she would try to get herself between him and the punishment...(pg. 167)"
Mrs. Burden
Pg 249 “‘They hated us here. We were Yankees. Foreigners. Worse than foreigners: enemies.’”

Her anti-slavery views make her an outcast in the town and she's often mockingly referred to as a Yankee and a foreigner. She holds progressive social views about African Americans. For these views, Joanna Burden acts as a foil for Doc Hines. Mrs. Burden is supportive of African Americans, while the hatred emitted by ol' Doc Hines is the social norm and more accepted in the South.

BY; Nate, Sam, and Isabella
Alienation from Society
"They [the townspeople] told Byron how the young minister was still excited even after six months, stil talking about the Civil War and his grandfather, a cavalryman, who was killed, and about General Grant's stores burning in Jefferson until it did not make sense at all. They told Byron how he seemed to talk that way in the pulpit too, wild too in the pulpit, using religion as thought it were a dream."- Page 61

One of the biggest reasons that Hightower is ostracized from Jefferson's society is his obsession with his grandfather and the Civil War. This obsession carries over into his ministry, where he often talks of his grandfather's death in Jefferson during the Civil War. It is not until much later in the novel that Faulkner explains this obsession and the truth behind it.
Pg 233 “. . .What she received were business and private documents with fifty different postmarks and that what she sent were replies—advice, business, financial and religious, to presidents and faculties and trustees, and advice personal and practical to young girl students and even alumnae, of a dozen negro schools and colleges through the south.”

Joanna Burden corresponds with and advises the of members many black colleges in the South, occasionally traveling to the campuses. This quote exemplifies Mrs. Burden's good nature and willingness to help those in need, unfortunately those who she wants to help are hated by the society she lives in.
She is also victim to rumors of sexual relations with black men, furthering her distance from the rest of the community.

Mrs. Burden
"'So it's no wonder,' he thinks, 'that I skipped a generation. It's no wonder that I had no father and that I had already died one night twenty years before I saw light. And that my only salvation must be to return to the place to die where my life had already ceased before it began'"- Page 477-8

This quote clearly shows the deep connection that Hightower feels to his grandfather, even believing that he is a sort of reincarnation of him. Of course it is not very normal to think these things, but it is the reasoning Faulkner uses to explain Reverend Hightower's actions that take place in Chapter 3.
"It was not alone all those thirty years which she did not know, but all those successions of thirty years before that which had put that stain either on his white blood or his black blood, whichever you will, and which killed him, But he must have run with believing for a while; anyway, with hope. But his blood would not be quiet, let him save it. It would not be either one r the other and let his body save itself (pg. 449)."
Joe Christmas
Faulkner explores alienation from society in his novel
Light in August
through characters that are ostracized from society due to popular perspective, such as Hightower and Mrs. Burden, and also through characters that choose to be outsiders, such as Joe Christmas.
" 'Why don't you play with them other children like you used to?' and he didn't say nothing and old Doc Hines said 'Is it because they call you nigger'? and he didn't say nothing and old Doc Hines said 'Do you think you are a nigger because God has marked your face?' and he said 'Is God a nigger too?' (pg. 383)."
Joe Christmas
"He watched it pick up a dish and swing it up and back and hold it there while he breathed deep and slow, intensely cogitant. He heard his voice say aloud, as if he were playing a game: 'Ham,' and watched his hand swing and hurl the dish crashing into the wall, the invisible wall, waiting for the crash to subside and silence to flow completely back before taking up another one (pg. 238)."
Joe Christmas
Joanna Burden
pg 53 "Don't nobody live in it but one lady, by herself. I reckon there are folks in this town will call it a judgement on her, even now. She is a Yankee."

Mrs. Burden and her entire family have been ostracized from society since they relocated to the South after Reconstruction to help Blacks assimilate into society. Being from the North, and being socially progressive, she is generally disliked, and even hated by some. In the jargon of the day, her family would be called 'carpetbaggers.' There was much tension between carpetbaggers and the locals in the south during this time. Faulkner uses Mrs. Burden as an example of how high the resentment was. Even in her death, Mrs. Burden is subject to judgement from the townsfolk. Likely they think she is deserving of her fate, and has brought it upon herself.

Although Joe Christmas isolates himself by choice often, he first experiences isolation from his peers as a young boy. After being dropped off at a orphanage Christmas experiences his first taste of isolation when rumors arise exposing that Christmas is part African American. Children then catch on to these rumors and isolate Christmas from their activities.
Ms. Burden came into Christmas' life as one of the only people ever to offer him comfort and love. Ms. Burden would cook for Christmas for absolutely no charge and eventually would become lovers with Christmas. Joe Christmas isolates himself from this compassion by throwing his neatly prepared food against the wall. This is a prime example of Christmas' self chosen isolation.
Another example of Joe Christmas isolating himself comes from when he refuses to accept Mrs. McEachern's compassion towards him. This is most likely due to the fact that Christmas had never felt true compassion, associating people such as Mrs. McEachern as malicious.
Perhaps the greatest struggle that Joe Christmas comes up against is his quest for self identity. Worse than being just a "nigger" Christmas believes he is some part African American but not certain. This cause much insecurity to arise in Christmas leading him to make decisions that isolate him from society.
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