Without an idiot narrator or stream-of-consciousness onslaught, Light in August could be mistaken for an easy read. But just because the narrative is straightforward doesn't mean the subject matter isn't difficult—Faulkner tackles sex, violence and racism head on. Oprah's Book Club is here to shed a little light on the situation.
A Veritable Who's Who
Joe Christmas, Joe Brown, Byron Burch, Lucas Bunch...because Faulkner gave his characters similar-sounding names, it takes extra diligence to keep them straight. Light-en your load by printing out the quick guide bookmark and adding your own character descriptions.
As Seen on TV
Like TV shows and movies, Faulkner's characters in Light in August have flashbacks. But unlike the frequency and suddenness of Benjy's in The Sound and the Fury, Joe Christmas's flashbacks are easy to recognize and follow. Page breaks or the start of a new chapter often signal a time shift in Joe Christmas's story.
A is for August
Think of the novel as a mystery. Who is Lucas Burch? Will Lena ever find him? Who were Joe Christmas's parents? Who started the fire at the Burden place? As you read, you'll see how the novel's seemingly unrelated stories will come together and complement one another.
More in Faulkner 101
Get the most out of your reading with more advice on how to approach the works of William Faulkner in general from a Faulkner fan from way back.
Published on June 03, 2005