Study Guide

Light in August Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

  • Miss Burden and Christmas have become regular lovers.
  • In what Christmas calls their "second phase," Miss Burden becomes possessive and totally jealous, going into fits over Christmas.
  • She sends him notes telling him to climb through the window to see her or to come and find her somewhere hidden in the house. Sometimes she tears her clothes to shreds and calls out "N****!" when they have sex.
  • Christmas starts to get really freaked out.
  • In their "third phase," things calm down a bit. Christmas starts selling whiskey (illegally) on the side.
  • Miss Burden starts to talk about having babies and one day she says she's pregnant. Christmas doesn't believe her and begins to plot his escape.
  • One day Miss Burden tells Christmas about what she considers a brilliant plan – she wants to have Christmas take over her role as an advisor to black schools. This freaks out Christmas even more and he avoids her for months.
  • During this time, Christmas invites Joe Brown to live with him in the cabin, mostly so he can use Joe Brown as an excuse to avoid Miss Burden.
  • One day, Miss Burden leaves a note on Christmas's bed; without reading it, he goes to the house and sits at the kitchen table, eating dinner.
  • Brown follows him to the house and barges in, teasing Christmas for sleeping with Miss Burden. Christmas punches him in the face and in the shoulder and runs away.
  • Miss Burden comes in and tells Christmas that she wants him to go to a black school to be a lawyer.
  • Christmas refuses and tells her to shut up. She hits him and he punches her; they fight.
  • After this fight, Miss Burden starts to pray for Christmas and, like McEachern, she tries to get him to pray too, in order to save his soul. This makes Christmas really angry.
  • In the next scene, Joe Christmas is walking up Miss Burden's stairs with his razor. She tries to get him to pray again and he refuses, so she shoots at him with a pistol.
  • Suddenly we find Joe outside, dazed and somewhat out of it. He flags down a car and gets in with a white man and his girlfriend. They're acting strangely and he doesn't know why. Eventually he realizes something is wrong with them and he gets out of the car. He looks down and sees that he had Joanna Burden's pistol in his hand the entire time. There are two bullets in the gun, and Christmas realizes that one was meant for him and the other, for her.

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