Summary: Light in August – Chapter Eleven

Joe’s fundamental need to reject everything from women is exposed in his association with Joanna. We find out that even though Joanna leaves him food, he still prefers to steal it. While he has already seduced her, he prefers to abuse her anew each time. With these violent acts, Joe is asserting his maleness. He is turning down and not allowing the woman to have any influence on his life. And each time he has sexual relations with Joanna, it is “as if he struggled physically with another man.”

Joanna Burden’s story of her relatives places her in a position to help Joe. She has inherited the burden of the Negro race. Her readiness to understand a person at his own value should have equipped Joanna to acknowledge Joe, and throughout this chapter, it seems that Joanna is accepting Joe for what he is.

At the end of the chapter, Joe reveals he doesn’t know his parents. He knows that one was part Negro. When Joanna questions how Joe knows that he is part Negro, he tells her that he doesn’t positively know, but he has always assumed that he has Negro blood. The point is that Joe Christmas senses or feels himself to be a Negro. He has lived his life with this conjecture. His problem involves his belief that he is biracial with two bloods. His attempts to resolve these two bloods or to find approval for both are decisive to his life.

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