Wood Imagery and the Cross in Faulkner's Light in August Essay

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Wood Imagery and the Cross in Light in August

It is nearly impossible to interpret Light in August without noting the Christian parallels.1 Beekman Cottrell explains:

As if for proof that such a [Christian] symbolic interpretation is valid, Faulkner gives us, on the outer or upper level of symbolism, certain facts which many readers have noted and which are, indeed, inescapable. There is the name of Joe Christmas, with its initials of JC. There is the fact of his uncertain paternity and his appearance at the orphanage on Christmas day. Joe is approximately thirty-three years of age at his lynching, and this event is prepared for throughout the novel by Faulkner's constant use of the word crucifixion. These are firm
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Upon perusal of the Christian parallels, they do, in fact, lead to a discrepancy worthy of exploring that, as yet, has been seldom noted. If Light in August has enough surface parallels to warrant the claim of a direct parallel in both theme and action to the Gospel of John, then where, in Light in August, is the crucifix, the most important symbol of Christianity?3 Faulkner himself would not have been one to leave out such a significant "tool" in his writing. The "mythical method" which he employed assumes not leaving out important symbols or giving them only small mention, but using them, distorting them even.

And it is distortion which dominates most of Faulkner's techniques: differing narrations in Absalom, Absalom!, narrative structure in The Sound and the Fury, especially Benjy's awkward section. Furthermore, distortion of literary allusions and myths was a significant part of the Modernist period out of which Faulkner wrote. One thinks of Eliot's "The Waste Land" with its complicated use of allusion and Joyce's Ulysses distorting the mythic figure's adventures. Faulkner even liked to play within other literary ballparks as well: "both he and Joyce thought of themselves first as poets, for they both loved to write under the constraints of form and with the freedom of word play" (Hlavsa,

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