Summary: Light in August – Chapter Eight

Chapter eight moves back a bit in time. Chapter seven involved McEachern’s discovery of the suit. In chapter eight, Joe remembers the actions leading up to his buying the suit, that is, his meeting and affair with Bobbie Allen.

Joe was attracted to Bobbie because she had a petite, tough, almost male figure. This emphasizes his disgust to the “soft kindness” connected with women and his rejection of very effeminate women. Later, we will see that Joanna Burden also has a certain mannish quality about her.

As with many of the women Joe sleeps with, Bobbie Allen is associated with odors of food and cooking. Again, there are strong sensory images connected with Joe’s meeting with women, again reflecting back to the influence of his first meeting with the dietitian. Wouldn’t Freudian psychologist be proud of Faulkner?

We should remember when Joe was hiding from the dietitian it was partly the odor of her clothing that made him vomit. Partially because of this when someone tries to explain to Joe about the monthly periods of the woman, he becomes sick again.
When Bobbie later explains, Joe must flee to the woods, where he vomits. As he is sick, he sees images of urns, each with a crack in it, emitting “something liquid, death-colored, and foul.” This is the female image, and this image will later be developed into Joe’s death image. The urn is also used for Lena, but for her it is symbolic of eternal life.

The affair that Joe has with Bobbie is his first open and honest affair with a woman. Joe reveals all the innermost thoughts of his heart and offers her his complete and undeviating trust. This trust in her will later be the source for his betrayal, but for now the important thing is the simple, unsophisticated faith and trust that Joe places in Bobbie.

Joe discovers she is a prostitute. He beats her violently. He does not beat her for some moral condemnation of prostitution. His violence toward her is because Joe’s sense of order and rightness are upset. He had expected punishment from the dietitian years ago. Now he expects Bobbie to be a more simple and honest person. The cruelty that accompanies his discovery is typical of Joe’s reaction every time something occurs which does not conform to his view of the order of things. This culminates in his murdering Joanna Burden.

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