Study Guide

Light in August Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

  • Byron shows up at Hightower's house to tell him that Christmas has been captured; he finds Hightower sleeping on a chair in the backyard.
  • Hightower chides Byron for keeping Lena and Joe Brown apart, hinting that Byron is being influenced by selfish, carnal desires. He also resents being Byron's confidante about the matters of the town, since he's no longer a man of God.
  • Byron leaves and comes back with the Hineses, who are revealed as Joe Christmas's grandparents. Mr. Hines, who seems to be losing his mind, goes on and on (and on) about his daughter Milly (Joe's mom) and all her sinful behavior.
  • Mrs. Hines tells Milly's story, which is as follows:
  • Over thirty years ago, Milly got pregnant by a guy who worked for the circus. The guy told her that he was Mexican, but once Mr. Hines saw him he claimed to be able to tell that he actually had black blood in him.
  • Mrs. Hines doesn't know if someone in the circus told him this or if he just had a feeling. Regardless, Mr. Hines became convinced his daughter was going to give birth to a black baby.
  • The couple tried to run away together, but Mr. Hines found them and shot the man, killing him.
  • Mr. Hines traveled to find a doctor to give Milly an abortion, but when he found the doctor he went crazy and attacked the guy, then went to another town.
  • In this town, he barged into a church and started preaching about white supremacy.
  • When the churchgoers tried to stop him he pulled out a gun and was taken to jail.
  • By the time Mr. Hines was released, Milly was about to have the baby. Mrs. Hines begged him to call for a doctor but he stubbornly refused, standing on the porch and eventually hitting his wife with his gun.
  • Milly died during childbirth.
  • One day, Mrs. Hines found a note and the child was gone – Mr. Hines had taken him.
  • Mr. Hines gets a job in Memphis and places Joe in the orphanage, where the young boy is teased, catches the dietician having sex with the doctor, and eventually gets adopted by the McEacherns.
  • In the present, Mrs. Hines finishes her tale and Hightower wonders why they told him all this and what they expect him to do.
  • Byron asks Hightower to give Christmas an alibi and say that he was with him the day of Miss Burden's murder.
  • Hightower refuses and kicks them all out of his house.

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