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Summary: Light in August – Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen presents Joe’s birth and the death of his mother. But whether he actually has Negro blood is left undecided. It was thought that his father had Mexican blood, but old Doc Hines and the circus owner both assert that the father actually had Negro blood.

We also find out that it was the dietitian who found and gave Christmas his name. This is ironic, since later his episode with the dietitian formulated his actions throughout the rest of his life.

Again those looking for the religious symbolism could view old Doc Hines as the Godhead. If so, then his rejection of Christmas makes man the complete victim of a hostile force. This analogy carries through with God demanding, requiring, or allowing the death or sacrifice of Christ.

We must remember that part of Joe’s conflict came from his wish to escape the emasculating influence of the woman. He had always felt that the woman had tried to destroy his individuality. Here then we see another woman, Mrs. Hines, attempting in some way to change Joe’s decision to face the responsibility of his own actions. Mrs. Hines’ interference will become a motivating force in Joe’s attempt to escape in a later chapter.

Hightower’s refusal to help Mrs. Hines is not merely a refusal to utter the lie she requests, but more important, it is a refusal to become an active participant in the community and thus become involved in responsibility again. Thus, his impassioned refusal is his last futile but passionate effort to retain his isolation.


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