by William Faulkner
Modernism, Tragedy, Southern Gothic
Modernism is a literary movement created by artists who were increasingly conscious of the fact that they were living in a fractured world, full of tragic events. Through a variety of experimental techniques the modernist artist sought to build something useful to society from the broken pieces he or she saw in the world. We can think of the different elements that make up "Dry September" as pieces of a broken world full of people with broken hearts. Faulkner arranges these pieces experimentally by providing us with a precisely segmented tale full of gaps, and diverting at every point from 'traditional' plotting.
Every moment of this story throbs with tragedy, and each character experiences the tragedy of living in a society where everything seems rotten and cruel. The burden of the tragedy of this tale weighs most heavily on Will – the victim of mob violence. Minnie too carries a large portion, and is most likely has a nervous breakdown in response to the tragedy she experiences. Hawkshaw is tragic because he tries to save Will, but fails. The other characters are tragic in their complicity with regard to the abuse and potential murder of Will, and in their discriminatory treatment of Minnie. Each of the characters in "Dry September" is tragic because he or she seems stuck in the faulty structures of society, unable to escape.
The Southern Gothic is a sub-genre of Gothic or Horror fiction. It explores anxieties and issues felt acutely in the southern US. In contrast to Gothic fiction, Southern Gothic is primarily concerned with race, poverty, class differences, and gender roles. These issues are often presented in such a ways as to evoke discomfort and even fear in the reader. The protracted Shhhhhhhhhhh! directed at Minnie at the end of Part 4 is a Gothic sound bite. Along with the description of Minnie's laughter-screams, it casts a sense of oppression and dread over the creepy bedroom scene.