1. Joe Christmas may or may not have some black ancestry. What does this ambiguity about his origins mean? Why would Faulkner describe Christmas's skin as "parchment-colored"? How important is it, in Faulkner's view, to "know who you are"?

2. Joe Christmas's life is told largely in flashbacks. Do you find this difficult to make sense of? Do we as readers learn things about Christmas that none of the townspeople can know? Does this matter? Do you see Christmas as a free agent or as someone whose life is determined by his past, or is his life run by other forces?

3. The "toothpaste scene" is considered to be one of the most important scenes in Light in August. What happens in this sequence? What themes appear? Why is the scene so important to your understanding of Joe Christmas?

4. How does the young Joe Christmas react to anything related to sexuality: i.e. learning about menstruation, or having sex with Bobbie Allen? Does Faulkner tell us how to interpret this behavior? Does it make a difference that we see this from Christmas's own perspective?

5. What are the circumstances that lead to the 17-year-old Joe Christmas going on the run? How would you characterize the young Christmas's relation to Mr. McEachern? To Mrs. McEachern?


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