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Themes

Women in Light in August tend to be meek and relatively powerless, living in the shadows of their husbands. That said, the women in the novel are also generally more kind and caring characters than the men are. One woman, Joanna Burden, rubs against stereotypes of female propriety and the imperative to get married, as she has an illicit affair with Joe Christmas and is rumored to have had sex with many black men in her day. Her Yankee background and her physical isolation make her an outsider, for sure, but her sexual freedom may be the most provocative thing about her. Joe Christmas's interactions with women reveal his misogyny, as he's consistently unable to accept love from a woman, treating them with disgust, contempt, and violence.

Questions About Gender

  1. Are there any strong women in the novel?
  2. Does anyone enjoy sex in this book?
  3. What is Christmas's attitude toward women and sex?
  4. What is the significance of Miss Burden's sexual behavior?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Lena and Byron Bunch are the most stable "couple" in the book.

Joe Christmas is disgusted by anyone who cares about him.

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