Study Guide

Light in August Race

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The legacies of slavery and racism are central to Light in August. Joe Christmas spends his life haunted by his blackness, the status of which is never actually confirmed in the novel. The book suggests that in 1920s America, knowledge about someone's race was much more about perception, hearsay, and opinion than it was about objectivity.

Questions About Race

  • What effect does Joe Christmas's biraciality have on him?
  • How does race play into the relationship between Christmas and Miss Burden?
  • What is the legacy of slavery and the Civil War in Jefferson, Mississippi?

Chew on This

Christmas acts out his racial self-hatred by inflicting violence on other black people.

Whiteness is in the eye of the beholder.

Christmas refuses to exist as either a black man or a white man.

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