| Quote #1
Because the town believed that the ladies knew the truth, since it believed that bad women can be fooled by badness, since they have to spend some of their time not being suspicious. But that no good woman can be fooled by it because, by being good herself, she does not need to worry anymore about hers or anybody else's goodness; hence she has plenty of time to smell out sin. (3.13)
The town divides women up into two categories – the good and the bad. Perhaps Joanna Burden is an outcast in society because she didn't fit into either category.
| Quote #2
Once he had owned garments with intact buttons. A woman had sewed them on. That was for a time, during a time. Then the time passed. After that he would purloin his own garments from the family wash before she could get to them and replace the missing buttons. When she foiled him he set himself deliberately to learn and remember which buttons were missing and had been restored. With his pocket knife and with the cold and bloodless deliberation of a surgeon he would cut off the buttons which she had just replaced. (5.9)
Christmas can't deal with women being affectionate and caring toward him; there is something about female affection that repulses him and causes him to act violently. This small act of violence – cutting off buttons with a knife – foreshadows the larger act of violence against a woman: Christmas's beheading of Miss Burden near the end of the novel.
| Quote #3
His right hand slid fast and smooth as the knife blade had ever done, up the opening of the garment. Edgewise it struck the remaining button a light, swift blow. The dark air breathed upon him, breathed smoothly as the garment slipped down his legs, the cool mouth of darkness, the soft cool tongue. (5.10)
This is an act of breaking free from thoughts of women.