Study Guide

Light in August Chapter 7

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Chapter 7

  • McEachern asks Joe repeatedly if he has learned his catechism. Joe has not.
  • McEachern gives Joe one hour to learn the catechism. When Joe still has not learned it, McEachern beats him ten times.
  • McEachern takes Joe out to the stable and whips him every hour for not knowing his catechism. He beats him to the point where Joe collapses.
  • Later, McEachern prays for forgiveness for hitting a child.
  • Joe lies in bed, sulking in his room.
  • Mrs. McEachern enters the room and offers him food; Joe rejects it. When she leaves the food, Joe leaps out of bed and kneels on the rug, eating with his hands like a dog.
  • One day, when he's fourteen, Joe's friends kidnap a young black woman and take turns raping her in a barn.
  • When it's Joe's turn, he does not rape her, but begins to beat her instead.
  • Joe's friends run into the barn and pull him off the woman, and then he begins to fight them too.
  • When he returns home, McEachern asks what he was fighting about. Joe says he doesn't know.
  • One day McEachern notices that the cow he gave Joe to care for is missing. He also finds a brand new suit hidden in the barn.
  • Joe claims the cow is down by the creek, so McEachern says they should go there to see.
  • When they reach the creek, Joe claims that he sold the cow. McEachern asks what he did with the money and Joe claims that he gave it to Mrs. McEachern.
  • Knowing he has been lied to, McEachern punches Joe in the face. Joe tells him not to hit him anymore.
  • Back at the house, Mrs. McEachern lies for Joe, stating that he really did give her the money.
  • McEachern calls her a liar and tells her to repent before God. Thankfully, he doesn't punch her in the face too.
  • In flashback, the narration recalls how Mrs. McEachern cared for Joe when the couple first adopted him. Mrs. McEachern bathed and dressed him on his first night in the house.
  • She created a secret world between them – bringing him food after his beatings and hiding money in his bedroom – in order to secure Joe's trust. But these actions only disgusted Joe, because he felt Mrs. McEachern was trying to make him cry so that she could control him.

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