Study Guide

That Evening Sun

By William Faulkner

That Evening Sun Introduction

Generally you don't think of "Nobel Prize-winning authors" and "creeptastic horror" at the same time. Nobel Prize-winners are dry and dusty, right? And horror is awesome (and what snooty people call "lowbrow").

Well, rethink your genre divides, Shmoopers, because "That Evening Sun" is by Nobel Prize-winning virtuoso William Faulkner and It. Is. Chilling.

This story is about a terrified black servant who is abandoned by the white family she works for. Each time you read a new paragraph, you're left wondering if she'll get murdered… by her psycho razor-wielding husband. Yeah. Be prepared to double-check the locks and sleep with the lights on.

That's not to say this story is just nightmare food. It was written by William Faulkner, after all—one of the heavyweights of American literature. This widely anthologized story (first published in 1931) takes place in the racially divided Mississippi of about the start of the twentieth century, right around the time the Supreme Court decided it would be a good idea (worst idea ever) to have white students and black students divided into separate schools.

Faulkner forces us to face the injustice of discrimination head on in "That Evening Sun." It's a Scary Story To Tell In The Dark and a wake-up call.

It's also a work of Modernism. In typical Modernist form, this story treats us to a display of the tricky workings of memory and the differences in how people perceive reality. The events of this story occur fifteen years before the narrator tells us the tale, and Mr. Narrator seems to change his mind about how his white family helped (or didn't help?) Nancy as he strolls down memory lane.

So whether you're in the mood for a bone-chilling psychological thriller, a rage-inducing dispatch from the Jim Crow South, or a Modernist head-flip, give this bad boy a read. You will not be disappointed… although you'll definitely be seriously impressed.

What is That Evening Sun About and Why Should I Care?

You should care about "That Evening Sun" if you care about fear.

Take that however you'd like, Shmoopeople. Any kind of fear you can think of, "That Evening Sun" will deliver.

Is your favorite holiday Halloween? Is your favorite movie Halloween? Do you get a rush out of thrills n' chills? Did you spend your childhood under the covers reading Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark with a flashlight?

Well, then you'll (s)care about a short story about a woman slowly going insane every night after dark, because she's worried that her psycho, razor-wielding husband will murder her and her unborn child.

Do the dark twisted labyrinths of the human mind give you the willies? Do you stay awake wondering if what you remember actually occurred? Have you watched Memento four or five times? Is Psycho your favorite Hitchcock movie because (gulp) insanity could happen to you, too?

Well, then you'll (s)care about a short story about a man walking down memory lane, only to realize that what he remembered was all wrong; that his family was cruel when he thought they were benevolent; that he was evil when he thought he was angelic; that one woman's sorrow drove her past the brink of madness… and no one aided her.

Or maybe your fear is more rooted in the day-to-day, in the headlines? Maybe you're scared speechless that racism still runs rampant? That people's racism leads them to be scared of people with a different skin tone than theirs… and that that terror leads to even more horrifically terrifying acts of racial injustice?

Well, then you'll (s)care about a story that shows you the deepest evils of the Jim Crow South: a town literally divided by race, where white men can kick in a black woman's teeth in broad daylight and no one bats an eye. Where a black woman is left alone to fend off her abusive husband and no one helps. When a black woman is imprisoned for prostitution but her white customers walk away without even a slap on the wrist.

However you like to get your chills, "That Evening Sun" has you covered. This story scares because it cares… and it wants you to care as well.

That Evening Sun Resources

Websites

William Faulkner on the Web
Got some more questions about the literary heavyweight? This website is a great resource packed with answers.

The Mississippi Writers Page: William Faulkner
Who needs a biography of Faulkner? The University of Mississippi Department of English has you covered.

Center for Faulkner Studies
Need Faulkner studies? Want them in a central place? Check out, naturally, the Center for Faulkner Studies.

Articles and Interviews

William Faulkner's Nobel Prize Speech
You win the Nobel Prize; you get the chance to say whatever you want for posterity. Here's what the great author said.

Faulkner's Interview by the Paris Review
The Paris Review is one of the most prestigious literary magazines of all time. Here's the interview of Faulkner they conducted in 1956.

Video

Prophets and Poets
Here's a PBS video on Faulkner's career and how his novels explore race.

William Faulkner at the University of Virginia
Here's a seven-minute documentary about Faulkner's time as a writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia. Some interesting interviews!

Audio

Hey! Answer My Question!
About 230 transcribed audio clips of Faulkner answering audience questions.

Recordings of William Faulkner Reading
Here are some audio clips of William Faulkner reading his Nobel Prize speech and from his fiction. Nice Southern drawl there, Bill!

Images

Photo Tour of Rowan Oak, Faulkner's Home
Check out these digs.

Stamp of Approval
What did Faulkner look like? Well, here's a 22-cent stamp the United States Postal Service issued with him on it.