Study Guide

Dry September Race

By William Faulkner


"I know Will Mayes. He's a good n*****." (1.2)

It's important to notice that Hawkshaw doesn't say "good man." He might like Will, but he isn't innocent of racist attitudes, speech, and probably thought. This reveals that he shares racially denigrating speech with his fellows.

"You damn n*****lover." (1.15)

We should note that Hawkshaw doesn't deny the slur, or seem offended by it. Although Hawkshaw uses racist language unacceptable today, it's possibly that his ideas on race were rather progressive for his time.

"Are you going to let the black sons get away with it until one of them really does it?" (1.37)

McLendon here seems to be admitting that he knows Will is innocent. For him the fact of a rumor connecting a black man and a white woman is a death warrant. He wants to make clear to the black community that such connections won't be tolerated, not even in rumor form.

"What is it captains? the N**** said. "I ain't done nothing. Fore God, Mr. John." (3.17)

Will addresses the men deferentially, as if they are his superiors. Since he calls John by name, we can assume they had a prior relationship. But, Will's race and his connection with a white woman in the rumor, is all that concerns McLendon now.

"There's not a N**** on the square. Not one." (4.4)

This comment is made by one of Minnie's friends when they are walking through town with Minnie on the way to the movies. This is at roughly the same time that Will is being abducted. The black community is terrified. Any member could face the same fate as Will easily, by some citizen of similar mind to McLendon.