Major themes in Faulkner's Light in August Light In August: A Study of 20th Century Man's Search for Self A Study of the Origins of Evil "...a man's future is inherent in that man..." -Faulkner in the University. p.139 Faulkner's Light in August is a metaphor. In fact it is many metaphors, almost infinitely many. It is a jumble of allusions, themes, portraits, all of them uniquely important, many of them totally unrelated. In fact no 20th century writer has even approached the sheer quantity of symbolism Faulkner packed into every page, with, perhaps, the exception of James Joyce who went so far as to surpass Faulkner in this regard. So obviously it would be foolish to attempt to trace every line, follow every branch to its root, one could spend a lifetime dissecting the book in this manner. Fortunately, in the midst of this menagerie of wonders, there are dominate themes. There are veins of meaning that permeate throughout. Chief among them; Faulkner's study of 20th century man's search for identity, and his compassionate portrait of the origins of evil. I have come from Alabama a fur piece (Faulkner, p.3). The reader begins the book in this manner, following the simple-minded and determined Lena as she travels, neither coming nor going, simply moving. Immediately the book draws into her past, relating events leading up to this point, explaining her motives. One gets a definite feel for her character, and settles into her narrative, but as soon as this happens, the book switches gears, turning instead to a vague character, Joe Christmas. With little introduction, or warning, the book reels into Joe's past, catching the reader totally unaware and throwing off the entire continuity of the book. Faulkner's desire for unity and coherence in the pattern is not as strong as is his desire for truth to individual response (Reed, p.123). Thus Lena is a frame, she serves only to accentuate Christmas's story, by contrast. Faulkner demands the reader follow, and realize this. So we now see Christmas's childhood. From the beginning, Christmas is two things. One, he is a totally clean slate in that he has no idea whatsoever of his past, his origins. He is neither predestined to good nor evil, simply born. By this same token, Christmas is left confused. Because he has no idea of his origins, he has no idea of self, even to the extent of not being sure of his race. Christmas is thoroughly alone in the world, irredeemably separate from everyone. "Well, here I am" (Faulkner, p.134). This is the first thing The boy Christmas says. A fitting statement on his utter aloneness. While Christmas is emotionally alone, he is not left alone by others. Light in August reiterates its themes by a series of different dramatic scenes acted by different examples of the same types (Gold, p.41). McEarhern and the dietitian are essentially the same: Authority figures who try to force on him their own ideas of who he is, or who they want him to be. And the two, identical, dramatic scenes acted by different examples of the same types, are these: When Christmas is carried off by the insane janitor, and when Christmas faints after spending hours standing while McEarhern tries to force him to learn a pointless Catechism. Both scenes involve Christmas's inability to resist, as authority figures try to determine who he will be. Both scenes end with Christmas being more confused than ever, yet more unwilling than ever to commit to either picture of himself. The dietitian does all in her power to convict Christmas of being a Negro, and then, his foster father, McEarhern, tries to force on Christmas an ideology totally foreign to him. McEarhern uses extreme Calvinism to mold Christmas into a purely moral person, while the dietitian tries to force Christmas into a state of immorality, or at least portray him as such. Forces beyond his control work against him, trying to force him in ways he is not, sending him in contradicting paths. Inevitably he rebels against these forces, finding refuge in immorality, a whore, and later going so far as to strike out against his oppressor, his own father, killing him. This final act of