by William Faulkner
Dry September Theme of Language and Communication
While the narrator of "Dry September" is reserved in terms of commentary, the characters are not. Most of the dialogue is disturbing, and uncomfortable to read. Racial slurs that would be unacceptable today are presented as acceptable speech in the story. Still, there are many things implied, rather than directly stated. Here's something interesting to do while you are reading. Notice how often character don't finish their sentences, and seem to trail of in mid-thought. This seems to be a symptom of the communication breakdown we see at every level of this story. From the dangerous rumor that drives the action, to the muteness of Minnie Cooper, and the silencing of Will Mayes, the story is deeply concerned with issues of language and communication.
Questions About Language and Communication
- Why doesn't Minnie get any lines? Who gets the most lines? How many lines does Will get? Does this have any significance?
- Is gossip a purely negative force in the story, or does it have some positive uses? What are some examples of each, if any? In real life is gossip ever a positive force?
- Why are so many of Hawkshaw's sentences left unfinished?
- How did the racist language so common in the story impact you? Do you think Faulkner was right to put this kind of language in his story? Why or why not?
Chew on This
At the end of the story, Minnie's friends are unable to silence her laughter and screams; although this is a tragic moment of psychological breakdown, it is also a moment of hope because her laughter and screams represent an attempt to communicate.
Hawkshaw's incomplete sentences reflect his anxiety over his inability to communicate effectively with the other men of the town.