Summary: Light in August – Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven opens with Mr. McEachern trying to teach and help Joe learn his catechism. He is so intense that he becomes an almost callous fiend. Mr. McEachern loses his sense of Christian values in his desire to compel the Joe to match his view of Christianity. The contradiction is brought about by McEachern’s righteous anger that Joe would lay the catechism on a stable floor because that is no place for the “the word of God.” Apparently, McEachern has forgotten that Jesus was born in a stable.

Important in this scene is Joe’s willpower to keep his own individualism and his refusal to accept McEachern’s faith. Later in the book when Joe kills Joanna because she wanted him to pray with her, we should remember how Joe was cruelly forced to kneel and pray with McEachern. This experience turns his mind against any form of prayer and makes him opposed toward any person suggesting prayer.

We see that even though Joe is hungry, he refuses to accept the food that Mrs. McEachern brings him. This is a demonstration of Joe’s refusal to accept anything from a woman. He cannot understand a woman’s motivation. But later he does eat the food hungrily. Here we see one of the central images connected with Joe is that of his regular search and need for food.

In the scene with the young Negro girl, Joe is fully aware of the strong smells of the barn. He is reminded of the sickness caused by the toothpaste which belonged to the dietitian. He begins to feel sick from the odors. He begins to feel sick from the idea of sex. We start to see that Joe’s complete approach to sex is affected by his past conflict with the dietitian.

Later when he thinks of the whipping he will receive, he knows when he disobeys McEachern’s regulations that he will be disciplined. But this penalty fits into Joe’s model of order. Joe knows that he can depend upon a man. He feels women are unpredictable. This is why he hates the interference of Mrs. McEachern. She, like the dietitian, represents a risk to his established order of life. Mrs. McEachern has always tried to be nice to Joe. Because of the dietitian, Joe distrusts all women.

If one wishes to develop the Christian symbolism, one should observe the foot-washing scene that is narrated in this chapter. This symbolism is throughout the book.

The Pacific War: The Strategy, Politics, and Players That Won the War

“The Pacific War: The Strategy, Politics, and Player That Won the War” is the best book I have read on the Pacific War Theater of World War Two. The book presents the decision-making processes, strategies, and at times politics that guided the Allied Forces to victory. You are there decision by decision and campaign.

This is both an extremely readable book filled with recent scholarly research. It is as entertaining as a novel. The prose is amazing. I cannot over emphasize how well written the book is. It has an amazing freshness readers will enjoy and is a book you will read from cover to cover. The book covers all the familiar episodes as well as censored or little known events that played a major role in ultimate victory.

The book begins with the first few chapters setting the background. The chapters that follow tell the story chronologically. The chapters are so well written they could stand as independent historical journal articles. They cover the various campaigns.

You receive insights into all aspects of the war. You learn about the big picture items like Plan Orange (a series of United States Joint Army and Navy Board war plans for dealing with a possible war with Japan during the years between the First and Second World Wars) and it’s implementation.

You learn of the economic mobilization of the USA. You learn of the size of the role of Australia’s involvement in the defeat of Japan as well as the size of General MacArthur’s ego. You learn of the role of breaking code and how it was critical to victories in the Coral Sea and Midway.

The battle between the Army and Navy over command and control amazed me. The infighting between services was childish. It shows the need for strong command and control – I think of the removal of an Army general by a USMC general which from the facts given was justified, but caused interservice strife. You learn how 1944 presidential candidate Thomas Dewey was made aware of the role of the code breaking by General Marshall to keep him from causing grave injury to the war effort.

The role of the submarines is given due credit. The problems with the torpedoes at the war’s beginning and their resolution show bureaucratic failures and American ingenuity. The decisions to keep US Army Divisions out of Burma and China as well as the struggles between Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, Commanding General, China Expeditionary Forces. You learn the details of the Battle of Leyte Gulf and Philippines as well as realize General MacArthur’s personal obsession with the Philippines.

I highly recommend the book. It should be required reading for every Army, Navy, and USMC officer. It should be included in every military and university library as well. This is a very import addition too the history of the Pacific War in World War Two.

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Six

Chapter 6 establishes Joe Christmas’s attitude toward women. It is a flashback to the earliest period he can remember of his life. It narrates the episode which affected Joe’s entire outlook on life. It covers the event that became one of the most crucial episodes in Joe’s life. First, it was there that Joe first learned that he might have Negro blood in him. He would spend the rest of his life attempting to compensate for these two bloods. We learn how he received the name “Christmas.” Since he was left at the orphanage on Christmas, his name was Christmas.

The chapter mainly sets the foundation for Joe’s attitude toward women and toward his world view of an ordered existence. Slipping into a dietitian’s room, Joe stole some toothpaste because it was a new experience. It tasted sweet. Having eaten too much and at the same time having to hide in the closet where the dietitian kept her clothes, Joe became sick while the dietitian was making love with the young doctor named Charley. When the dietitian discovered Joe’s presence, she immediately called him a “nigger bastard,” forcing Joe to correlate his actions with his Negro blood.

Joe, as a child of five, knew that he had done something wrong and expected to be punished for his offense. The dietitian, not realizing that Joe was too young to grasp her promiscuity, lived in fear that Joe would tell on her. Joe lived in a state of frightful expectation of being punished for his offense. Instead of being punished, he was offered a dollar. He could not understand this contradictory act.

The apprehension he was kept in was a draining experience which destroyed his sense of the order of things. The suspense is also linked with the fact that he was abducted shortly afterward from the orphanage by Hines, the janitor. After his return, he is adopted by Simon McEachern. This one episode messes up his calm order of existence. He views women as destroyers of his ordered way of life. Many of his brutal actions against women stem result from his resentment against the dietitian, whose actions perplexed him.

Joe’s desire to eat toothpaste becomes central to his entire life. In many scenes during the novel, Joe is motivated by his hunger and by his desire for food. Later he both meets Bobbie Allen in a restaurant amid the odors of food and encounters Joanna Burden while he is stealing food in her kitchen. The toothpaste also functions as a vague symbol relating to Joe’s sexual life.

Finally, we are introduced to a religious maniac, Euphues Hines. Even though we won’t learn until later, Hines is actually Joe’s grandfather. Hines language resembles that of an Old Testament prophet. Hines sees himself as either God’s messenger or as God Himself. His influence on Joe, however, is minimal because Joe’s main conflict comes from his relationship with women.

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Five

Chapter Five is a small skip back in time and covers the events of the night and day preceding the death of Joanna Burden. The idea that returns persistently to Joe’s thinking is the impending act of murder.

We find elaborate and highly complicated rituals preceding the real murder in the chapter. These provisions are to emphasize that the murder was not committed in cold blood. Many of Joe’s actions in this chapter are understandable only in the light of later events in the novel.

Joe’s realizes that he was tricked or fooled by Joanna. He thought she was pregnant. Then he realizes that she had lied about her age. She was actually several years older than she had told him. Joanna is the symbol of all the women in his life who have lied to him or who have tried to destroy his sense of peace and security. Only at a later point in the story do we realize that women have tried to bring elements of disarray into Joe’s life and that he has regularly fought against the corrupting influence of women.

Joe’s first symbolic act is that of removing his clothes. He then walked naked through tall wet grass. He seems to be undergoing some type of cleansing ritual. Next, we see him revealing his nudity to a passing car. The relationship of light and darkness on his body suggests the conflicting white and Negro blood in his body. He does some weird stuff. He tries to reject all the weakening influence of women by going to the barn and sleeping with the animals, thinking that even a female horse is a type of male. This suggests Joe is attempting to deny the female world.

The book is full of symbolisms that scholars love and average readers may not be aware at first reading. I know I had a “say what?” attitude when I first studied the book years ago. I needed a teacher guiding me through the chapter almost sentence by sentence to get all the deep stuff. I had just enjoyed the story when I read it. Following a brief sleep, he becomes immersed in phallic images–the ladder, grass, lumber, icicles, and his own dark serge trousers set off by his white shirt. The cracked mirror in the cabin also reflects Joe’s conflicts as he can see and come to terms with only half of his self. In the valley, he rests and goes through another cleansing episode as he shaves, this time using the water from the spring as the mirror, thereby severing connections with all man-made objects. His next act is to destroy the whiskey which had been his chief means of income in Jefferson society.

Joe’s last act before the murder is to visit the two sections of the town. He goes first to the white section. He rejects this part of town because he senses his isolation from it. He then goes to the Negro section, where he is rejected. This helps him to realize that his isolation is complete. He then makes his way back to the house where the murder is to take place. Joe makes advanced preparations for the murder. The murder will sever him forever from any hope of becoming a meaningful part of society.

The entire scene is intermingled with many images of black and white. Joe carries his razor. He is tempted to use it in the Negro section, where he is rejected. And as a topical refrain, the phrase, “All I wanted was peace” runs through the scene.

If you want to give yourself a good headache you can look at the Christian analogies many see in the chapter. The entire scene is filled with Christian symbols. The baptismal ritual, the struggle comparable to Christ’s struggle before the crucifixion, the night in the barn (or manger) are all resonance of actions of Christ, but these shouldn’t be used to suggest that Christmas is the Christ-figure. They deepen Christmas’ struggle by suggesting as a comparison the depth of Christ’s struggle before His crucifixion, thus intensifying Christmas’ struggle. I told you some of this stuff is pretty deep. I guess you write many books like this and you get the Nobel Prize in literature as Faulkner did.

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Four

Chapter four is a classic example of Faulkner’s narrative method. Faulkner involves the use of indirection and circumlocution. He will often approach his subject from an oblique position. He then withholds important information. This creates an air of tension.

If we carefully study the method where Faulkner progressively unfolds his story of the house burning and the relationship between Joe Christmas and Joanna Burden, we will then understand Faulkner’s narrative approach to much of his fiction. He saves the most important information until the end of the chapter. First Byron tells of the house. Then he tells of the arrival of Lena and the manner in which he inadvertently revealed her lover’s identity. Little by little, we learn that Joe Christmas and Joe Brown lived behind Joanna’s house. Only later do we learn that Joe Christmas and Joanna had lived for about two years as man and wife without being married.

The disclosure that two unmarried people have lived together out of wedlock is shocking enough to a small southern town of that period. A final shock and the horror comes at the end of the chapter when Byron reveals that Joe Christmas has some Negro blood in him. In southern terms of the day he is considered a negro. Thus the shock of Joe and Joanna living out of matrimony is replaced by the dreadful recognition that a Negro man has slept with a white woman. In terms of southern mores of that time, this is more horrible than any other possible sin. Because of this, the murder, itself, will become less important than the sexual act, and will ultimately culminate in the horrible castration at the end of the novel.

When Hightower hears that Joe Christmas has part Negro blood, he says: “Poor man. Poor Mankind.” It is as though he draws a parallel the plight of Joe Christmas with that of all mankind.

This chapter offers the first hint that perhaps Hightower will be drawn back into life. This is hinted through Lena’s investigation as to whether Hightower is still minister enough to marry someone.

This chapter also shows Joe Brown and Joe Christmas in some type of business and personal relationship. This relationship is another connection between Joe Christmas and Lena Grove, since Joe Brown is involved with each.

Five Ways God Wants You to Use the Problems in Your Life

Problems weigh heavy on one's mind.

Five Ways God Wants You to Use the Problems in Your Life

Are you facing problems in your personal life, business life, family life, relationship life, creative life, spiritual life?  We need to realize – Life is a series of problem-solving opportunities.  The problems you face will either defeat you or develop you.  It all depends on how you respond to them.

Read Romans 8:28   – Ask God what He is trying to tell you from this.

1. God Uses Problems to Direct You

Proverbs 20:30 Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways.

2.  God Uses Problems to Inspect You

James 1:2-3  When you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this test will give you patience.

Caution!  Too much self-analysis is dangerous!    It leads to “Why Me Lord” syndrome.

3.  God Uses Problems to Correct You

Psalm 119:71-72 … It was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws

4.  God Uses Problems to Protect You

Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.

5.  God Uses Problems To Perfect You

Romans 5:3-4 We can rejoice when we run into problems … they help us learn to be patient.  And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.

• Problems when responded to correctly are character builders.
• God is interested more in our character than in our comfort.
• Your relationship with God and your character are the only things you will take with you into eternity!  see Romans 5:3-4
• God wants to make changes in your life where you can make a difference!

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Three

I’m blogging my thoughts, reflections, and a simple chapter summary as I reread the book chapter by chapter. Chapter three gives the background to Hightower’s life. We hear these things not from Hightower but from the town’s people.

We learn that Hightower has negative preconceived opinions based on some event associated with his grandfather’s being shot while riding a horse. This event makes him want to stay in Jefferson in spite of the anger aroused by some perceived offense that he suffers. Additionally, Hightower seems in some way partly to blame for his wife’s death.

Hightower’s view is he wants left alone. He just wants the town to let him live in peace and quiet. This is one way of rebuffing life, or not wanting to become a participant in life.

This chapter also sets us up for Hightower’s attempt to run away from life by living for some event in the past. The past has a strong hold upon him. We learn that he used any method available to secure a place in Jefferson. He has undergone the incredible torment so that he can stay in Jefferson.

Poem: The New Boy at School

The New Boy at School

He was sitting on the front row center
Of his health class, all those years ago,
As he listened to the teacher’s lecture.
He glanced at the clock hoping it was time to go,
Beneath the clock was a blond girl wearing Doris Day’s style of hair
She looked him square in the eye and smiled, he couldn’t help but stare.
When he returned her smile she nodded and blushed

Then crossed her legs in a way that showed the bare thigh
Between her garters and her hose
And he knew right then when class did end
He had to go and say hello.
When the bell rang he walked over to her desk.
Before she could even get out of her chair
He held his hand out to help her up.
She was glad he was there.

Then he introduced himself and asked her name
As the other kids stood and stared.
He carried her books as they walked to her next class
He could smell her hair and knew it was Prell

By the end of the next class he held her hand
As they looked out at the rain
Her hand was small, soft to the touch
And sent electric charges to his brain

Then he walked her home from school.
Now the rain had gone away.
He listened to what she had to say.
He asked about her family, her dreams,
And if he could be her beau
When she said yes he kissed her hand.

A smile came to her face.
Then she sat down her books
Pulling him close in a loving embrace
She kissed him on the lips
Moved his hands to her hips
For she knew he was really shy as could be.
Then she stepped back and looked at him
Once more she smiled lovingly.
And at the window was her mother watching all she could see.
And mom smiled remembering the days of her youth.

He asked if he could take her to the football game.
Then he told her he was too young to drive.
She agreed to meet him at the stadium
They would watch the game then gaze at the stars.
When he got there to his surprise she was part of the cheerleader squad.
He stepped back and looked at her as her school spirit overflowed
And when she saw him she blew him a kiss and his heart started to race.

The new boy at school felt like he finally belonged
Then the band played the fight song and all was right with his world.
He was at the football game with the pretty blond cheerleader girl
He was sitting in the center of the front row
As she and the cheerleaders put on their show

© July 19, 2011 by Jimmie A. Kepler

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Two

I’m sharing my thoughts, reflections, and a simple chapter summary as I reread the book chapter by chapter. As we look at chapter two we should be aware of the time of chapter two. Chapter two introduces Joe Christmas, the major character in the book.

Our first look at Joe Christmas is from Byron Bunch. He thinks that Christmas looks as though he belonged to no definite place in the world, no definite home or community. This description evokes the idea of the Christian symbolism connected with Joe Christmas. I am not going to go into depth on this them. There are many commentaries that will explore this in mind numbing detail. This is pretty deep stuff! I like to say we first see Christmas as he’s hired to shovel saw dust at the mill. He first dresses in a new straw hat and in a white shirt and khakis … and he doesn’t have a lunch. After his first pay check he shows up in overalls (the unofficial uniform of the mill) and brings his lunch.

Faulkner pleasures in playing or punning on names. Note that Lena thinks Bunch is actually Burch until she meets Byron. And the Bunch-Grove-Burch relationship is a rather lusty pun on that connection.

In chapter one, we saw that Lena gladly accepts food and willingly offers to share her own meager food with strangers; now we hear that when Byron Bunch once offered Joe Christmas something to eat, Christmas harshly rejected his benevolence telling him to keep his “muck.” This response offers another basic contrast between Joe and Lena. We also learn that in contrast to Lena, who seems to blend in with her natural surroundings, Christmas emphasizes the difference between himself and the world he lives in. However, we see a relationship between Lena and Joe in Joe Brown’s (Lucas Burch’s) connection with both.

Chapter two reveals all the main characters in the novel. And all of them seem to have an unusual relationship with the community. One of the motifs, or ideas developed is man’s relationship to his community. And in this chapter, we see that all the characters are in some way isolated from their community. For example, we hear that Christmas has nothing to do with his fellow workers. Brown is new to the town and does not seem to fit in. Even though Byron Bunch has lived in Jefferson for several years, no one knows anything about him except the old Reverend Hightower, who is also an outcast from the town. We hear of Miss Joanna Burden, whom the town has rejected because she is friendly with the Negroes. And Lena has just arrived pregnant and unmarried. Thus, Christmas, Brown, Bunch, Lena Grove, Hightower, and Joanna Burden are all mentioned in this chapter, and all are in some ways isolated figures, or at least outside the normal flow of the community.

Essential to novel’s development is the way Byron reveals that Lena’s lover is in the town. The fire which coincided with Lena’s arrival into Jefferson also prompted Byron to talk more verbosely than usual, and through his harmless gossip, he inadvertently reveals the whereabouts of Lucas Burch (alias Joe Brown). The fact that he does reveal this information aligns him with Lena and he then feels partly responsible for her welfare. In later chapters, his feelings of involvement ultimately cause him to try to involve Hightower.

Summary: Light in August – Chapter One

“Light in August” by William Faulkner is the book for the first time Faulkner reader to start with. The book is very readable. Unlike some Faulkner stories, the story line is easy to follow. He is not as verbose in this work as in some of his others where monologues within the story derail the reader. The plot is more typical than any of his other works. The average reader will appreciate the book and get a hunger to dip into other works by this southern master writer. I am going to blog my thoughts, reflections, and a simple chapter summary as I reread the book chapter by chapter. So naturally, I’ll start at the beginning, chapter one.

In chapter one we find a young woman named Lena Grove. She had been living with her brother in Alabama. She was living with her brother because her parents both died the summer when she was twelve years old. Her mother died first and then her father. As the tale begins she is travelling from Alabama to Jefferson, Mississippi. At the end of the chapter we find out the journey takes her one month. But as the chapter unfolds we find her walking barefoot. She is in her teens and she is pregnant. A couple of local men notice the girl and discuss her wondering who she is, where she is from, and what she is up to. They also notice she is not wearing a wedding ring. One of the two men is named Armstid. As he is heading home in his wagon he gives her a ride and takes her home for supper. His wife is cold toward the young woman, though they feed and care for her, allow her a good night’s rest, and the Armstid wife even breaks a little rooster china bank giving the coins to Lena. Then Armstid takes her to town the next morning where she can get a ride on to Jefferson. There she hopes to find Lucas Burch, apparently the man of her affections and the father of her baby. The chapter ends with Lena saying she’s only been on the road four weeks and here in Jefferson already. More to come after I reread chapter two.