The Parallels of Lena Grove and Jose Christmas in William Faulkner's "Light in August"

In William Faulkneris Light in August there is an indirect correlation between the two characters Joe Christmas, and Lena Grove despite their apparent opposite personalities and the fact that they never actually met in the novel. Lena Grove who now plays a sort of background role while Joe Christmas stands out more in the foreground was actually FaulknerUs inspiration for Light in August. Joe Christmas we now know was actually an addition to the book, which apparently came to Faulkner as he wrote, Faulkner, however miraculously parallels the two within the same novel without them ever interacting, or meeting each other.

The pregnant lady walking on a dusty road is the first way that we are able to Visualize Lena Grove through Faulknerfls account of the beginning of her journey. From the beginning we know very little about where Lena is going or why she is going there. However. as the first chapter goes on we learn that Lena had never before done any traveling and has lived In a small town since she was twelve years old.

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Lenais mother and father had died when she was twelve years old. She then moved in With her brother, his girlfriend, and their many children. Being that Lena[s brother was always working at the mill and his girlfriend was always either pregnant or recovering from pregnancy, Lena was forced to tend to the many children and tend to the housework. From there we learn that after Lena had been living with her brother for more than eight years she begins sneaking out of a window at night to meet men.

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She becomes pregnant by a character that we meet later in the story. Joe Brown, Her naivete leads her to believe that he will keep his word that he will send for her after he becomes established. She eventually either becomes aware of the fact that he is never going to send for her or gets tired of waiting and ascends on her journey to find him, Hospitality seems to surpass judgement for the characters that meet Lena. Even though Mrs. Ann Armstid is greatly opposed to and maybe even offended by Lenafls blatant naivete and pregnancy Without a husband she helps her anyway by givmg her money for food shelter and money.

When Lena arrives in Jefferson she is judged harshly and maybe even pitied by the people there, yet everyone treats her nicely. Byron Bunch immediately falls in love with her, quits his job and moves out of his home hoping to be with her, The furniture dealer who gives Lena, and Byron a ride to Tennessee gladly gives up his truck for the night for Lena to sleep in as he sleeps on the ground outside of the truck. Reverend Hightower, though he is rudely awaken in the middle of the night, travels across town to deliver Lena[s baby even though he has never before met this woman and has only heard of her. Mrs, Hines is one of the few exceptions, Mrs, Hines seems to vision Lena as a reincarnate of her very own daughter Milly. When Lenafls child is born Mrs. Hines holds him as she cries llt’s Joey. It’s my Milly‘s little boy.” The little boy in the process of discovering toothpaste is our introduction to the childhood of the character that the book seems to revolve around, Joe Christmas. Christmas is first seen hiding in a bathroom at the orphanage where he lives contently eating toothpaste which he is having access to for the first time. However as we see him enjoying the toothpaste for the first time the dietitian comes in with her lover and they begin to make love. Joe who is still hidden now begins to feel the effects of swallowing toothpaste and canfl resist and vomits. From then on the dietitian and Joe are both scared of each other, Joe tries to avoid her for fear of being punished as she tries to bribe Joe into promising that he woth tell about what he saw With a silver dollar, Joe doeant understand that she fears getting in trouble just as much as he does, Joe believes that the Dietitian is going to beat him for eating the toothpaste. When Joe refuses her offer she angrily calls him a llittle nigger bastard]. From then on Joeis vision of women is tainted. This causes a chain reaction that we see throughout the book. This leaves the reader to wonder where did Joe come from? How did he end up in an orphanage.

The book eventually goes into further detail about Joe. His racist grandfather, Doc Hines, placed Joe in the orphanage, Doc Hines not only places Joe in the orphanage, but prior to this he had murdered Joeis father after he found out that his unwed daughter. Milly, had gotten pregnant by a negro circus worker. He then refuses to find a doctor for his daughter after she gives birth to Joe. and she dies. He runs off with the baby and the leaves him on the doorstep of the orphanage on Christmas Eve (hence the name Joe Christmas). Doc then proceeds to obtain ajob at the orphanage as ajanitor where he teaches the other children to call Joe unigger]. After the incident With the dietitian, and a number of other occurrences at the orphanage a religious righteous farmer adopts Joe by the name of Simon McEachern. When McEachern tries to instill his beliefs in Joe and then whips Joe when he resists. Joe becomes all the more confused. When he couldnit resist the toothpaste he got into trouble and when he resists the religion of Mr. McEachem he is whipped brutally. Due to the impact of Joeis first encounter with a woman he refuses his adopted mother all together and Will not accept her food or her kind words. The reader is able to understand the impact that these experiences begin to have on Joe. Loving only to hate is the way that we end up having to view Joe. Even at our look at .1er5 first encounter we see Joe kicking the girl who he is to be havtng sex with instead of submitting to it. Later we see Joe falling in love With Bobbie Allen. It seems as though he has found an escape from everything.


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The Parallels of Lena Grove and Jose Christmas in William Faulkner's "Light in August". (2022, Jul 07). Retrieved from

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