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WAI CHEE DIMACK: OK.
So we're starting on our final novel and I'm
very glad its Faulkner.
There's so many stories to tell about Faulkner, just
about the composition of the novel.
So this started out having a different title.
It started out being called Dark House.
So you can see that it really is right on the other side of
the spectrum.
And it's a really an interesting thing that actually
this novel could be described as either Dark House
or Light in August. So really, light and dark obviously are
have the two constitutive parts of the novel, even
though it's the light that has been highlighted in the
present title.
In fact, it could just as well have been dark.
This is what Faulkner says about the title that we now
have, Light in August. This is much later when he was talking
about it at the University of Virginia in 1957.
"In August, in Mississippi there's a few days somewhere
about the middle of the month when actually there's a
foretaste of fall.
It's cool, there's a lambence, a luminous quality to the
light, as though it came not from today, but from back in
the old classic times.
It might have fauns and satyrs and the gods from Greece.
And that's all that the title meant.
It was just to me a pleasant, evocative title, because it
reminded me of that time of the luminosity older than our
Christian civilization.
Maybe the connection is with Lena Grove, who has something
of that pagan quality."
This a great entry point to the novel.
It's about quality of light in Mississippi.
So it has this very important, local dimension to it.
But it also sees itself as completely looking back to an
extremely long literary tradition, going back to the
classic times.
And in fact, it predates Christianity.
So that's very important to consider this, that while
Christianity is very, very important in this novel, but
it's very important to remember that Faulkner
actually also has a reference point that is older than
Christianity.
So because Faulkner was talking
about fauns and satyrs.
I think that those words are just words to most of us, so I
just found some illustrations.
This is from the Roman mosaics, the satyr.
So you see basically it's like human beings, except, the feet
are the hooves of a goat.
So this is not a very pretty image of the faun.
I think that in our minds, we tend to think of the faun as
very delicate and graceful, but actually it has kind of an
animalistic dimension to it.
And this is probably looking more like our stereotypical
image of the faun, very graceful, but nonetheless with
the hooves of a goat.
So in As I Lay Dying, we talked a lot about the
relation between animals and humans.
So it's very important to keep that in mind as well, just in
the reference to the faun.
Faulkner is invoking that whole uncertain boundary, and
certain in betweenness between human and animal.
And the satyr actually has an even long history.
The faun basically is Roman.
Satyr, it goes back to the fifth century BC.
Basically it's Greek.
And there's a whole genre called the satyr comedies,
featuring this creature.
It's again, looking for most part like a human being, but
having the tail of a horse, and also the ears of a donkey.
Just to see the way in which the satyr has been
reactivated, and picked up and reincarnated in
the twentieth century.
Here is someone with the years of a satyr.
We call them Vulcan's ears, but looking exactly like the
ears of a satyr.
And here is another image, basically the ears are the
giveaway of this creature.
Also it's small, not very noble looking compared to a
human being, or to a god.
So but Faulkner, even though he's interested in the satyr
and fauns, he's not really writing about them.
He's mostly interested in Lena and the fact that she is a
pagan character to him.
So the more on Lena.
"She was never ashamed of that child whether it had any
father or not, she was simply going to the conventional laws
at the time...
and find its father.
But as far as she was concerned, she didn't
especially need any father for it anymore
than the women that--
on whom Jupiter begot children were anxious for home and a
father."
So Faulkner seems to be really interested in women who get
pregnant out of wedlock.
We've seen this in As I Lay Dying, in Dewey Dell, and the
way in which that is the constant burden on her mind.
And it seems that now he has gone to the
other side of the spectrum.
If pregnancy was a constant burden on Dewey Dell's mind,
here it appears that it is not a burden at
all on Lena's mind.
And maybe that's why she's a pagan.
It's that it's completely OK to be pregnant out of wedlock,
not to have a father, not to have a wedded father as the
father of your child.
And the reason that is this case is that Jupiter has had
this long history of having fathered many children who can
point to Jupiter as the father--
Jupiter or Zeus--
as the father, but otherwise not having a human father.
So it's a completely honorable thing to have a baby when you
don't know who the father is.
And the most famous example of course is someone called Leda.
So you guys know--
picking two very chaste illustrations of Leda and the
swan, Tht swan being Zeus, obviously.
But if you would just go and look it up, you can find
numerous other illustrations--
some not so chaste--
showing Leda and the swan.
And this is the most famous example.
Leda was married to someone else, and Zeus was just
enamored of her.
So he comes to her in the form of a swan.
And the offspring, one of the most famous offspring from
that union, was Helen.
So basically the whole of The Iliad, the whole of The
Odyssey really comes from this union between Leda and Zeus.
And there would have been no epic at all if there had not
been this union between Leda and someone
who's not quite human.
So here's another illustration.
This one is Greek and this one is Roman, once again Roman
mosaic, and many modern incarnations as well.
Yeats also has a poem about Leda.
So basically someone who goes down in history as--
even though it's not presented in this is way, but she's
really going down in history as the most honorable instance
of pregnancy outside wedlock.
But Faulkner is also not writing Leda's story.
He's writing Lena's story.
So this is very much a case of the American Lena's updating
the Greek Leda, even though maybe she doesn't know the
father, or maybe she's not sure that she can get the
legitimate wedded husband to be the father of the child.
She's definitely going to go and she's
going to get someone.
So, "It was her destiny to have a husband and children
and she knew it, and so she went out and attended to it."
Completely matter of fact.
This is the American case, it's not the old
classic times anymore.
In twentieth century America, you need to find a guy.
So she's on the road to find this guy, whom she still
thinks ought to be the actual father.
So today's lecture is really about the updating of the old
classic unwed mother.
And this is the structure of today's lecture, the way that
I've been talking about it, obviously you know that this
is going to be a comedy on the part of Lena.
So it's comedy and essentially sex as comic.
But because this is a road novel, one of many, it also
has an epic dimension to it.
And another innovation that Faulkner is bringing to bear
on the novel and that really is a serious updating of the
classic epic comedy --
is the introduction of two allegorical
names, Byron and Burden.
I want to go back still, just linger with the classics for a
moment in defining comedy in a particular way.
Usually we just in think of comedy as like a Jane Austen.
That would be comedy, it has a happy ending.
But actually in the Poetics, Aristotle defines comedy in a
slightly different way that actually is closer to the way
that I would like to talk about comedy in this class.
In the Poetics he says, "The participants in comedy were
called komoidoi not from their being revelers, but because
they wander from one village to another.
So wandering, on the road.
Persons who are inferior, not however going all the way to
full villainy, but imitating the ugly of which the
ludicrous is one part.
The ludicrous that is, is the failing or a piece of ugliness
which causes no pain or destruction."
So this is a very counter-intuitive
definition of comedy.
A lot of it is not that nice.
It has to do with villainous people, but not going all the
way to full villain.
Ugly people, but again, not going all the way so they're
utterly despicable.
It has a lot to do with people who are not noble.
And that really is the classic definition of comedy.
The emphasis really lands on the happy ending, that on the
fact that they are low born, that they are low in another
way, that they don't rise to the tragic height of nobility,
which is the elevation proper to tragedy.
Comedy is of a much lower elevation.
So they are sometimes ludicrous, they are basically
not admirable people.
But one result of not being completely admirable is that
they actually survive quite well.
They actually manage to hang in there.
So they bring no pain or destruction either to
themselves, or to other people.
Don't forget, this is the exact opposite of tragedy.
We have mass destruction at the end of tragedy --
if you think about the tragedy of Troy, or the tragedies
based on the story of Troy -- mass destruction.
Here a comedy suggests that everyone is going to be able
to survive.
So with that definition in mind, let's think about the
ways in which Lena is pagan, especially in relation to her
sexuality, and way that Faulkner represents this
aspect of the human condition.
This is the story of how Lena gets pregnant.
"She slept in a leanto room at the back of house.
It had a window, which she learned to open and close
again in the dark, without making noise.
She had lived there eight years before she opened the
window for the first time.
She had not opened it a dozen times hardly before she
discovered that she should not have opened it at all.
She said to herself, that's just my luck.
Two weeks later, she climbed again through the window.
It was a little difficult this time.
If it had been this hard to do before, I reckon I would not
be doing it now, she thought."
So the entire story what could have been seen as tragic,
traumatic, devastation in person's life, one whose
life's been ruined, all that is told through Lena's
relation to the window, that she can open it without making
a noise, that's she's done it a few times, and then she
realized she shouldn't have done it, and then the final
time it's very hard.
But she wished that it had been that hard to begin with.
So it's all told through this completely off focus off
center relation to the main event.
And it doesn't seem especially bad, really, even though it's
a matter of inconvenience.
And that really is what the pregnancy is to Lena.
It is a matter of inconvenience.
It is a nuisance, that it is not so easy for her to get out
the window at this time.
And just to remind us that Faulkner doesn't always write
about sexuality in this way, let's just go back to a
character who is completely non-pagan.
And there's no more striking example than Quentin in The
Sound and the Fury.
So this is what he thinks about women's sexuality.
"Delicate equilibrium of periodic filth between two
moons balanced.
Moons he said full and yellow as harvest
moons her hips thighs...
Liquid putrefaction like drowned things floating like
pale rubber, flabbily filled getting in odor of honeysuckle
all mixed up."
So for Quentin and indeed for most non-pagan characters,
there's a good part of the world that is repugnant, that
is just really repulsive.
And it turns out that women's sexuality is part of that very
repugnant world.
So it's not great to live in a world like that.
And that's really why Quentin does what he does.
For someone like Lena who is pagan, much of the world, in
fact probably all the world is not repugnant.
It's inconvenient, sometimes it's a little ugly, it's a
little messy, but it's not repugnant.
And that's why she is what she is.
So this is one way we can think about Lena.
And I should tell you that she's not the only character.
So this novel is actually not that comic, but her share of
the novel is comic in that way.
But even though Aristotle defines comedy as basically
the journey that is undertaken by ignoble persons, the more
recognizable model obviously is the epic journey.
So any time we think of someone traveling on the road,
we think of the epic genre.
And that is very much in play.
We've seen it in play elsewhere in Faulkner.
It's very much in play here as well.
And this actually a kind of not so funny--
It's interesting to see what the tone of this is, of the
description of Lena being on the road.
"Though the mules plod in a steady and unflagging
hypnosis, the vehicle does not seem to progress...
like a shabby bead upon the mile red string of road.
So much so is this that in the watching of it the eyes loses
it as sight and sense drowsily merge and blend, like the rode
itself, with all the peaceful and monotonous changes between
darkness and day, like already measured thread being rewound
onto a spool.
So that at last, as though out of some trivial and
unimportant region beyond even distance, the sound of it
seems to come slow and terrific and without meaning,
as though it were a ghost traveling a half mile ahead of
its own shape."
Great description.
And it's on a different register.
We can see that it's really on a different tonal register
from Lena having trouble climbing out the window.
And I would say that there's a complicated relation between
the epic genre and the comic genre in this novel.
On the whole, what the epic genre brings to this novel is
the sense of a journey that somebody has to go on.
It's not even especially pleasurable.
It just stretches on.
Yesterday listening more in terms of paradigms that we've
been using.
Tomorrow is going to be exactly like today, and going
to be exactly like yesterday.
It's the repetition of the same that defines this kind of
epic journey.
So it is peaceful and monotonous.
And the image that Faulkner uses is that it's like an
already measured thread being rewound onto a spool.
There's absolutely nothing new under the sun.
It is just an old story being told over and over again, and
the complete exclusion of anything that is dramatic from
this sense of the journey.
So in many ways it's very hard to write a novel based on the
fact that it's completely monotonous.
And that's part the challenge.
Although I promise you, the rest of the novel actually is
anything but monotonous.
But Lena's part of it actually aspires to be monotonous in a
good sense.
In a sense that there's really--
It's good.
There's no dramatic development.
There's no catastrophe.
That's really what Faulkner has at the back of his head,
is that catastrophe is what defines tragedy.
Non-catastrophe is what defines comedy.
So just to give you a sense of the way in which this epic
journey is being incarnated and reincarnated in American
literature.
Two other very famous novels, Jack Kerouac's On the Road,
and more recently this apocalyptic instance of that,
Cormac McCarthy, The Road.
Faulkner's On the Road is a little
different from those two.
So today we'll think all the ingredients that go into his
making of his road novel.
It has to do with kindness of strangers, it has to do
something like switchability; if the journey is going to be
pretty monotonous for Lena, there's
got to be some variation.
It has to alternate with something else.
So it turns out that actually even though the protagonist
herself too is peaceful for this story to be very
dramatic, there will be other people, the supporting cast
actually, who supplies the drama.
So there's kind of a switchability between when the
action or where the drama is going to come from.
As far as Lena's concerned, the drama's going to come from
the supporting cast, rather than from Lena herself.
And this further switchability in terms of the relation
between the weighty and the mundane.
And then I'll talk about gerunds as well.
So there's the outline of what is to come.
But let's just stay with the kindness of strangers for a
little bit.
Lena has come quite far.
And the reason that the journey is so peaceful and
monotonous is that there's an endless supply of people who
would do things for her, who will be the supplies of
hospitality to keep Lena going.
And that's who is very Greek.
We know that hospitality is one of the key virtues in
Greek culture.
When a stranger comes, you're supposed to feed them, shelter
them, give them presents when they go away.
That is the understanding, the basic mode of exchange between
human beings, is that you're good to people you are seeing
for the first time, and that you never see again.
So the quality, there's something of that in a way
that Lena is being treated.
"The evocation of far is the peaceful corridor paved with
unflagging and tranquil faith and peopled with kind and
nameless faces and voices.
Lucas Burch.
I don't know.
I don't know of anybody by that name around here.
This road?
It goes to Pocahontas.
He might be there.
It's possible.
Here's a wagon that's going a piece of the way.
It will take you that far."
So these people are completely faceless and nameless.
They really are complete strangers.
They are not meant to be remembered or to be
encountered again, even though Faulkner sometimes actually
picks up some of them in his other novels.
But they're meant to recede into the background as part of
that peaceful and monotonous corridor, which it is
completely safe for Lena to travel.
So it's the sense of guaranteed safety due to the
guaranteed hospitality of strangers.
But we know that the kindness of strangers has got to take a
dramatic turn for there to be a good story to the novel.
So we're actually seeing it very soon.
And it comes about through Lena's
interaction with a couple.
She's been taken in by this couple.
And it turns out that the arrival of Lena creates a
major upheaval in the life of this married couple.
So all of the sudden, Lena recedes into the background.
So we can add to switchability, the
switchability between foreground and background.
Lena recedes into the background as the supporting
cast comes to the foreground.
so this is the exchange between the Armstids.
"He cannot tell from her voice if she's
watching him or not now.
He towels himself with a split floursack.
Maybe she will.
If it's running away from her he's after, I reckon he's
going to find out he made a bad mistake when he stopped
before he put the Mississippi River between them.
And now he knows that she is watching him, the gray woman
not plump and not thin, manhard, workhard, in a
serviceable gray garment worn savage and brusque, her hands
on her hips, her face like those of generals who have
been defeated in battle.
You men, she says.
What do you want to do about it?
Turn her out?
Let her sleep in the barn maybe?
You men, she says.
You durn men."
So this is all we're going to--
I mean, we'll get one more, a little bit more of this.
But this is really as far as Faulkner is concerned, this is
completely adequate freestanding
snapshot of the marriage.
And I would say that it is as interesting as the marriage
between Cora and her husband, Tull, except that it is at the
moment a tension between the two.
So we know that what kind of people these are, they are the
poor white, more people who can't afford a towel and use a
split floursack for a towel.
And the way that they actually know each other very well.
So Armstid doesn't have to look usually, to see if she's
watching him or not.
It really says a lot about what kind of a relationship it
is, that you can just tell by the tone of voice whether or
not the person's looking at you.
So that for me is a measure of how good the marriage is, that
you know your companion that well.
Just a tone of voice will be able to tell you exactly the
posture, the physical posture of this person.
So initially we can't really tell, but then once he said
something, once he said, hey this guy is not going to be
able to escape from Lena, once he said that then she knew
instantly that she's looking at him.
And we know what she looks like, sort of a more stern
version, I think, of Addie, but very much belonging to the
same socioeconomic group, in a gray garment, working
hard all her life.
But also not just workhard and all these interesting coined
adjectives, coined by Faulkner.
Manhard--
I don't exactly know what that means.
Manhard.
Maybe she is completely resistant to
the charms of men.
Maybe that's one definition of what it means to be manhard.
Certainly, she's worked hard all her life.
And maybe the two adjectives are related in that way.
There's a way in which if you work so hard all your life
you're kind of immune to the charms of other
people, men and women.
So she is immune to the charms of her husband, and her face
is like the face of generals who've
been defeated in battle.
It is a weird reference.
The Civil War is really not important in this--
Well no actually.
The Civil War is very, very important to another
character, but it's not important to Lena.
The Civil War is front and center for another character,
but it oddly intrudes into this moment when it really is
not the reference point.
But the entire history of the South is indexed in this
reference of Mrs. Armstid's face looking
like the face of generals.
So in many ways, she's more like a man than like a woman.
I know there's actually that --
when I came to this sections last week and I enjoyed them
very much, some of you mentioned that Nicole is
financially more like a man and so is Rosemary.
Rosemary is financially more like a man.
So Fitzgerald has also thought about the ways in which there
could be a cross-gender dynamics in people who are
otherwise completely feminine.
And here she doesn't look especially feminine, and the
cross-gender dynamics are much, much more powerful here.
So she's like a general who's been defeated in battle.
So maybe she's been defeated in life, just because it's
been such a hard life, or just that it didn't go exactly the
way she wanted.
We don't know the contents of that phrase, that why her face
is like the face of generals who have been defeated.
We also don't know, but that's the least of it.
We don't know why she's suddenly saying what she's
saying to her husband. "You durn men."
Armstid's really not contemplating having
an affair with Lena.
So the durn men is not really a
complaint against her husband.
It is a grievance that is probably directed against the
entire half of the human population, men, that this is
what men would do to women, and her husband, being an
instance of that.
Although, obviously there are many other episodes in the
marriage that might be in the back of her mind.
But in any case, this completely out of the blue,
out of context, outburst from Mrs. Armstid suggests that
this is both a very good marriage, but also a
complicated marriages as all marriages would have to that
have lasted for a long time.
So these two people know each other very well.
And he seems to know, he knows better than we do exactly what
is going on in her mind when she says, "You durn men."
And then there's a further development to this episode.
Now we're getting dramatic action from Mrs. Armstid.
"What are you fixing to do with your eggmoney this time
of night, he says.
I reckon it's mine to do with what I like.
She stoops into a lamp, her face hushed, bitter.
God knows it was me who sweated over
them and nursed them.
You never lifted no hand.
Sho, he says.
I reckon it ain't any human in this country is going to
dispute them hens with you, lessen it's the possum and the
snakes, that rooster bank, neither, he says.
Because, stooping suddenly, she jerks off one shoe the
strikes the china bank a single shattering blow.
From the bed, reclining, Armstid watches her gather the
remaining coins from among the china fragments and drop them
with the others into the sack and knot it and reknot it
three or four times with savage finality."
This is one of the most satisfying representations of
almsgiving, or people being charitable, and looking
completely not charitable when they're doing it.
So this is the only way this woman will allow herself to be
charitable is by looking as harsh and bitter as she could.
So before that, answer her thought.
Well maybe she's just in kind of a jealous mood and she's
not going to allow Lena to stay in the house.
But it turns out that it's quite the opposite.
And it probably was a kind of a complex combination of
recognizing that, yes this is a young woman, very
attractive, that she's not that young woman, very
attractive.
But recognizing maybe in some sense that this woman is
embodying a long nursed grievance that she has against
men in general.
Whatever is the psychology, she is in solidarity with
Lena, without ever wanting to betray that solidarity.
So it is that complicated kind of behavior that you want to
do something for that person, but you never want to give
yourself away as doing something.
So it really is the most interesting and dramatic and
psychologically and behaviorally complicated kind
of kindness of strangers, is that it's not, definitely not,
the traditional kind of almsgiving.
So in terms of the narrative dynamics, we can say that the
Armstids have completely taken over the narrative.
There's a complete switch between Lena, the supposed
protagonist, and the two of them being the supporting
cast. It turns out that the supporting cast --
that Faulkner probably spends more time thinking about the
supporting cast, than he does thinking about the
protagonist.
And that is a really interesting way to define the
protagonist, is that maybe a protagonist is someone you can
actually afford not to spend a lot of time thinking about.
And that it is really the supporting cast that you have
to give your energy to.
It's a very interesting definition of reversibility,
of the distribution of space, distribution of attention
within the story.
And we're seeing many instances of this.
So because we've just done with Fitzgerald, just wanted
to remind you of a very obvious instance of
switchability in Tender Is the Night, in the description of
Nicole, that her brown back is hanging from the pearls.
The human body is hanging from the appendage, a completely
switched, reversed degree of importance between the person
who's supposedly the protagonist and that what is
supposed to be just an appendage.
And of course that switchability is played out
not only in terms of that one particular detail, but also in
terms of the entire narrative of Tender Is the Night.
It turns out that Dick Diver is completely upstaged by
Nicole as she becomes really the main actor in the novel.
That is has becomes her story, that she gets to dictate the
outcome of that story.
And he becomes her appendage, dispensable appendage at the
end of the novel
So we're seeing this in Faulkner.
Basically on a very large macro scale, in terms of the
entire narrative structure of Tender Is the Night.
In Faulkner, it is much more local.
It is just this one moment that there's this switch
relation between protagonist and supporting cast. But it
also plays out on different registers in Light in August.
So we'll look at one other also local instance of
switchability.
If the Armstids represent the dramatic arm of the novel,
where Faulkner can give us high, human psychological
drama, when it comes to Lena, what he gives us is kind of
very small upheavals on what is basically a level platform.
But even on that very level platform, they have mild
upheavals, and it has to do with the switchability between
the weighty and the mundane.
"So she seems to muse upon the mounting road while the
slowspitting and squatting men watch her covertly, believing
that she is thinking about the man and the approaching
crisis, when in reality she is waging a mild battle with the
providential caution of the old earth of and with and by
which she lives.
This time she conquers.
She rises and walking a little awkwardly, a little carefully,
she traverses the ranked battery of maneyes and enters
the store, the clerk following.
I'm a-going to do it, she thinks, even while ordering
the cheese and crackers.
"I'm a-going to do it, saying aloud.
And a box of sardines.
She calls them sour-deens.
And a nickle box."
So this is the essence of the drama in the to be or not to
be, or in this case to do or not to do.
The to do or not to do in Lena's consciousness revolves
around a box of sardines.
And that is completely OK for Faulkner.
It qualifies her to be the protagonist of his novel.
So we really have to give some thought to what it is that
entitles a person to be the protagonist of a novel.
We know that in Greek tragedy, a person has to be noble and
to have a very drastic downfall in order to qualify
to be the hero of a tragedy.
In the modern comic novel, nothing like that.
Just a very, very minor upheaval is OK.
So I think that it is because of that very level platform,
because of that basic, very reliable continuum that is
backed up, supported, by the kindness of strangers, it's
because of that continuum that we get a really interesting
linguistic practice, and a kind of a stylistic tick
almost in this particular novel.
We've seen a little bit of that in the other novels, but
this novel it's really pronounced.
It has to do with the use of gerunds, especially turning
verbs into nouns.
We've seen a little bit of that earlier in the passage,
but here it becomes in the foreground.
"That far within my hearing before my seeing...
I will be riding within the hearing of Lucas Burch before
his seeing.
He will hear the wagon, but he won't know.
So there will be one within his hearing before his seeing.
And then he will see me and he will be excited.
And so there will be two within his seeing before his
remembering."
Highly stylized.
Basically, there's no way we can not notice the fact that
the verbs are being used as nouns in this instance.
So the way that we can maybe try to make sense of this very
self conscious practice on Faulkner's part, is by
noticing how different an image of Lucas Burch we're
getting from Lena.
How different from the image that we've getting just a
moment ago.
No, actually just a moment later from Armstid.
Armstid knows exactly what Lucas is doing.
He's running away from her.
He's just really unlucky that he hasn't put the Mississippi
River in between himself and this woman.
So Armstid has a completely accurate diagnosis and
portrait of what kind of a man Lucas Burch is.
Lena has a completely unrealistic, out of touch with
reality portrait of Lucas.
She things that he'll be very glad to see her and he'll be
excited that in fact it's not just one person
who's coming, but two.
And so in many ways what Faulkner is giving us in this
very stylized, linguistic practice, is to create a kind
of linguistic cocoon around Lena, that she is insulated by
this unidiomatic use of English, just as she's
insulated by an interpretation of reality that really has
very little to do with the reality which is the truth
about Lucas Burch.
It is very much a kind of linguistic shelter, in which
she can afford to keep on thinking in this way about the
man who keeps running away from her.
And this is why she can afford and why can she be continued
to be completely unworried, unanxious about her pregnancy.
This is how she can do avoid, she can prevent that from
becoming a burden on her.
So we can think of this as one element, Faulkner is very
artistic, intervening to make certain things possible for
one character that would not be possible for other
characters.
And this particular intervention, the use of
gerunds, is one stylistic device to make sure that Lena
is preserved in a state of constant well-being.
But he's also clear-eyed enough to know that she really
is completely dead wrong about Lucas Burch.
Sorry.
Fast forwarding to a much later moment.
But this is just to bring Faulkner into a discussion
that we've been having all through the semester which is
about types, where certain people, characters, can be
classified, they belong to broader groups, groups that
have labels.
So it turns out that he's also quite conscious of the fact
that Lucas Burch actually is not so much an individual as a
type, a type of man.
And this is his commentary--
This is actually Hightower's commentary, but it's as good
as Faulkner's--
commentary on the fate of Lena Grove.
"For the Lena Groves, there are always
two men in the world.
And the number is legion.
Lucas Burches and Byron Bunches." There's all of them
are suddenly appearing in the plural.
So Lena Grove is a type.
They have the Lena Groves of the world.
And then there's the Lucas Burches and Byron Bunches.
And this is really what saves Lena, is that she actually is
one of the Lena Groves.
And her fate is to be unlucky in one sense, in that she's
stuck with a man like Lucas Burch.
But she's lucky in a sense that you can just know.
It's almost kind of a statistical point, that to
every Lucas Burch, there will be a Byron Bunch who will take
care of her.
So she was saved in this way that there always will be the
pairing of two kinds of men in her life.
So here is the allegory thick and fast, definitely very
heavy handed and meant to be noticed.
Byron, Lord Byron, the stereotypical romantic poet.
And with the added little joke, I think, that he
actually died in Missolonghi, Italy.
So it has some reference, some affinity to
Mississippi, as well.
And I'm sure that it is not beyond Faulkner to think that
that's a nice connection.
So here's Byron being the namesake for Byron Bunch.
And sure enough, he lives up to his namesake, the
romanticism of his namesake.
"Then Byron fell in love.
He fell in love contrary to all the tradition of his
austere and jealous country raising, which demands in the
object physical inviolability.
It happens on a Saturday afternoon while he's
alone at the mill.
Two miles away the house is still burning, the yellow
smoke standing straight as a monument on the horizon.
They saw it before noon, when the smoke first rose above the
trees, before the whistle blew and the others departed.
I reckon Byron'll quit too today, they said.
With a free fire to watch."
This switchability is in high gear in here.
It starts out with Byron falling in love, but that
romantic side of this story doesn't even get to control
the entire paragraph.
Basically it just gets two sentences.
And then the rest of the paragraph is taken over by
something that has nothing to do with romantic love.
And all of a sudden we realize that yes, Byron is falling in
love at the same time as a very--
that's dramatic enough in his life.
But this drama in Byron's life is taking part with a drama
that's going to overtake the entire town, which is the
burning of a house.
And it says something --
and we're also getting another glimpse of what kind of people
are living in this town in the reference to the
free fire to watch.
This is not the strangers who are kind to other strangers.
It's a very different portrait of the local community.
So it turns out that Byron is not the only person who has an
allegorical name, but a young character who does as well.
"It's a big fire, another said, what can it be?
I don't remember anything coming out that way big enough
to make all that smoke except the Burden house.
Maybe that's what it is, another said.
"My pappy says he can remember how 50 years ago folks said it
ought to burned, and with a little human fat meant to
start it good.
Maybe your pappy slipped it out there and set it afire, a
third said.
They laughed."
So this is the others allegorical name, that Byron's
always going to be paired with someone whose name is Burden.
And Burden is not as--
There's no Byron to clue us in.
There's actually a very famous poem that will suggest to us
the origins of that name, Kipling's poem, "White Man's
Burden." "Take up the white man's burden / and reap his
old reward: / The blame of those ye better, / the hate of
those ye guard."
I think we have a completely misguided, wrongheaded notion
actually of Kipling's White Man's Burden.
It's not really about how great it is to take up the
white man's burden, but how awful it is and that you incur
the hatred of lots of people.
So this is one of the allegorical names, how they
function in Light in August and how Faulkner's really
updating the old classic story, is that it really is
the story about the fate of someone called Byron and the
fate of someone called Burden.
And obviously there are other characters who are invoked
through those two characters, but they're both on fire.
Byron is on fire because he's falling in love.
Joanna Burden actually is on fire in that she's being
burned alive.
She's dead by that point.
But she's on fire, her body's on fire.
So that is also what contributes to the Light in August
and that's why the other alternative title, Dark
House, is just as appropriate.
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22. Faulkner, Light in August

5418 Folder Collection
曾信豪 published on January 25, 2015
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