Study Guide

Light in August Genre

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Southern Modernist Fiction

William Faulkner was an American modernist through-and-through. As such, many features of modernism are present in Light in August. First off, the story is told from multiple perspectives and in several different writing styles – Joe Christmas's story is told through dense flashbacks rich in psychological detail, Mrs. Hines tells Hightower her story in her own words, while Hightower's story is told in a mixture of flashback and town gossip. This creates a story that doesn't privilege just one perspective. Instead, it spreads authority throughout the town's characters, suggesting that there are multiple ways of telling stories and of telling the truth, as well. Light in August also features the use of stream-of-consciousness, particularly in Joe Christmas's sections. This allows us access to his confused and tortured psyche.

Faulkner also gives the novel a distinctly southern vibe, though, by including southern dialect and local colloquialisms. Even the title of the novel, Light in August, is thought to reference a southern phrase meaning "pregnant." The very title of the work, then, highlights the fact that this is a novel deeply influenced by and embedded in southern life and culture.

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