Poem: War is Not Far

War is Not Fair

Do not mourn, soldier, for war is not fair.
A large IED is planted by the roadside.
It waits patiently for a Humvee or a Bradley.
Caring not who is inside or whose life will be destroyed.
It cares not that you are there as a volunteer trying to give them a better life.

Do not mourn, family, for war is not fair.
The IED by the roadside blows up the Humvee or Bradley.
Bits of metal, flesh, smoke, and stench fill the air.
The destruction rains not caring who is destroyed.
It cares not that it kills, cripples, breaks hearts, and destroys families.

Do not mourn, parents, for war is not fair.
The IED destroys the dreams you had for your children.
George W. Bush took us there and Barack H. Obama keeps us there.
Caring not who is serving or whose life is being destroyed.
The politics of war is most unkind.

© Jimmie A. Kepler 2009
Originally published in:

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Fifteen

Chapter fifteen gives us an excellent presentation of a religious fanatic. By presenting him as the town sees him, Faulkner gives “Uncle Doc” Hines  character qualities of a freak, a fanatic, a vile type of segregationist, and a pathetic weakling.

Even though old Doc Hines is not identified in this chapter as Joe’s grandfather, the reader should at least recognize him as the same man who worked in the orphanage for five years between twenty-five and thirty years ago. He was the one who stole Joe from the orphanage and who called the dietitian’s actions “bitchery and abomination”–the same thing he mutters at the end of Chapter fifteen.

On a realistic level, old Doc Hines’ hatred of Joe is a result of his general hatred of the Negro race. Thus this chapter goes into a long presentation of his unreasonable dislike for the Negro race and his absurd interference with the Negro church services. Therefore, old Doc Hines’ want for his grandson’s death can be taken on one level as the desire of a typical fanatic for white supremacy. But his fanaticism also functions on another level. It becomes significant when applied to his own grandson because this emphasizes Christmas’ isolation from society; he can never be accepted when his own grandfather rejects him.

When Hightower hears the news of Joe Christmas’ arrest, he becomes terribly agitated and begins to cry. Hightower has remained alone and isolated so long, has lived without human contact and knowledge of his fellow-man for so long that now, as he hears of the suffering of another person, his compassion is intense. He feels even by hearing the story that he drawn back into the difficulty and strain of everyday life.

He reminds Byron that he is an isolated figure and no longer a man of God because the town forced him. Thus, Hightower seems to be suggesting that he is not responsible for his present situation and that he is not therefore capable of helping another person. But in actuality, Hightower does not want to assume the responsibility connected with living a normal life again–he prefers his own isolation without responsibility.

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Fourteen

Since Joe Christmas felt the need to kill Joanna out of a need to keep his individuality and since he could no longer run from his own self, it is now significant that after the murder, he makes no attempt to escape. He never leaves the surrounding countryside through which he wanders trying to come to terms with his conflict, and since his is an inner conflict, there is no need for Joe to leave the immediate neighborhood of his crime.

The murder occurred on Saturday, and on a Tuesday, Joe is seen in a Negro church cursing God. After this dramatic episode, Joe begins to come to terms with himself. Some critics have viewed this as the day of the Holy Week when Christ cleansed the temple. But in terms of Joe’s conflict with his two bloods, this episode suggests that the black blood can no longer stay pacified and must express itself in violence. This is his last futile attempt to deny his black blood.

His acceptance of his black blood comes when he exchanges his shoes for the Negro’s shoes. Basically, this is done so that the bloodhounds cannot trail him, but in accepting the shoes, he also seems to struggle no longer with himself. It is as though he spent all of his energy cursing God in the Negro church and now is ready to accept his heritage.

As soon as Joe accepts his black blood, he finds a sense of peace and contentment for the first time in his life. Joe realized that to have peace, he must accept full responsibility for his own heritage and his own actions. It is now that he realizes he must return to society and face the consequences of his earlier acts. With this decision and with his acceptance of his responsibility, he then finds that long-sought-after peace and contentment. This is represented by his becoming unified with nature and his surroundings: He breathes deep and slow, becoming one with loneliness and quiet that has never known fury or despair.

Note that as soon as he comes to this recognition and this acceptance of self, he performs a symbolic cleansing ritual by shaving in the soft, cold, spring water. He even uses the Negro’s shoes to sharpen his razor and prepares himself for his return to town to assume responsibility for his actions.

It is only when Joe comes to the realization that he can never escape from himself and therefore accepts his Negro heritage that he breathes quietly for the first time in his life. He also realizes that he is no longer hungry. It will be remembered that Joe has always been in search of food and his sudden recognition that he is no longer hungry becomes significant in terms of his earlier struggles against hunger. Symbolically, when he accepts his destiny, he becomes at peace with his tormenting hunger, and sleeps peacefully for the first time.

Notice the difference in Joe’s actions before and after his acceptance of himself. In the scenes which immediately precede and follow Joe’s self-realization, there are different responses to Joe. In the first scene, Joe approaches a Negro to ask him the day of the week. The Negro is terrified by Joe’s appearance and flees in utter horror. Then comes the scene after Joe has accepted his responsibility, and he approaches another Negro who quite naturally and nonchalantly offers Joe a ride into Mottstown. During the ride, Joe feels that he has accepted himself, and he realizes that he is no longer exhausted or hungry.

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Thirteen

Chapter thirteen handles the town’s reaction to the crime before we see, in the next chapter, Joe’s own actions following his crime.

Hightower’s reactions in this chapter are central to understanding his character. Notice that when Byron Bunch discusses Lena’s fate with him, Hightower refuses to offer his house as a refuge for her. He feels that he has suffered too much in the past and does not want to become involved in life again. Then after Hightower hears about the sheriff’s finding Joe’s trail, he feels some identity with Joe and is afraid that he is being drawn back into the stream of life. Even the fact that he feels something other than indifference to the fate of another person indicates that he is becoming involved with life again.

But he doesn’t want to become involved, and even though he resists, Hightower is slowly being drawn back into life. At the end of the chapter, he reminds Byron to engage a doctor for Lena and casually offers to help if there is anything he can do. Thus through Byron Bunch, himself a person isolated from the community, Hightower is being drawn back into the stream of life even though he resists it at every turn.

In this chapter, it becomes apparent that Byron is falling in love with Lena Grove. Hightower still has the perception and sensitivity to recognize this fact and knows that it will only bring sorrow to Byron. So he tells Byron to leave this town, which he calls “this terrible, terrible place.” Hightower has firsthand information as to how cruel and terrible the town of Jefferson is, and he fears for both Byron and himself. He prefers his life alone and has seen Byron live a life isolated from other people. He therefore fears that Byron is opening himself to terrible anguish and pain by becoming involved with a woman who is not accepted by the town.

Poem: Ice Cream

Ice Cream

I like ice cream
In a cone or in a bowl
I like vanilla
And I like it cold

I’m going to eat a bowl of ice cream
I’ll get you an ice cream cone
Do you want some chocolate sauce
On your ice cream cone?

It is real ice cream
With calories galore
It is homemade
Not bought at a store

I like my ice cream
In a cone or in a bowl
I like vanilla
I eat it all before it gets too old.

© Jimmie A. Kepler 2009
Originally published in:


Summary: Light in August – Chapter Twelve

Chapter twelve is the central chapter of the novel. It relates events which were only hinted at in the first chapter when Lena Grove arrived in town and saw the column of smoke. Remember that earlier we learned that Joe Christmas had killed Joanna Burden. The next several chapters had provided the impetus and settings to the crime.

As chapter twelve begins it deals with the absolute dishonesty of Joanna Burden. Her and Joe’s relationship went through three distinctive phases. The first was the seduction which we heard about in the last chapter. The second came during the wild “throws of nymphomania.” The last phase was Joanna’s effort to change Joe.

During phase two, Joanna, in the thrill of her sexual relationship with Joe would often cry “Negro! Negro!” That pointed out that she on the whole enjoys being dishonored by someone with Negro blood. Despite her heritage, which should have trained her to accept the Negro as equal, this howl suggests that again Joe is not being acknowledged as a person of equality. This in itself changes his relationship with Joanna.

The crucial change comes during the third phase. The reader should remember that Joe always thought of women as being destructive to his sense of order. The dietitian, Bobbie Allen, and unknown prostitutes have forced him to be suspicious of the influence of women who seem to infringe his sense of an ordered life. For about two years, Joanna and Joe’s relationship obey the rules of an ordered (though nontraditional) pattern, but when Joanna broke this pattern with her demands that Joe Christmas take over her finances, go to a Negro school, and finally that he pray with her in order to be saved, he again reacted violently to this infringement of his concept of an ordered existence. Prayer is particularly offensive to Joe. This was because of his earlier childhood experience with Mr. McEachern when the elder man beat him unmercifully because of his refusal to recite the catechism.

Joe also views women as being capable of tearing down his own individuality. He thinks in this chapter that it would be easy to give in to Joanna and live a life of security and ease. But then he thinks that if he did give in, he would be denying everything that he has stood for during his life. As a result, when Joanna tries to compel him to change, he must kill her or else his own sense of security and isolation is violated. On the simple plot level, Joe kills Joanna in self-defense because she did attempt to kill him. She would have succeeded if the gun had not failed to fire. In the purest legal sense, Joe kills Joanna out of self-defense.
While he could have run, remember he has spent his life running. He now feels that he must take his stand. He must assert his own values. He does this even if it means killing the person who is trying to go against his order and serene way of life.

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.

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Ten

The years connecting Joe’s eighteenth year and the time when he emerges in Jefferson are covered somewhat quickly. We gain knowledge that he has rambler about the country in ever-expanding circles. He is thirty-three when he shows up in Jefferson, symbolically, the age of Christ when He was crucified.

The reader should be conscious of Joe’s sense of the order of things. To each prostitute during his years on the road, he would admit that he was a Negro. The confession always brought one response. When this model of behavior is broken by the prostitute who did not care whether or not he was a Negro, his reactions are violent. He beats her unremittingly. He becomes sick afterward. Joe’s brutal flare-ups comes from the unconscious wish to castigate the dietitian who had first violated his pattern of order.

As with the dietitian, the Negro girl, and Bobbie Allen, Joe’s first meeting with Joanna Burden is also in the midst of sensory odors and connected with food. He is actually eating his stolen food when Joanna appears and tells him where he will find plenty of food.

Summary: Light in August – Chapter Nine

Joe’s harsh assault against McEachern represents all the antagonism that he has felt for years. It also represents his youthful desire to protect the woman with whom he has been sleeping, especially when she has just been attacked by McEachern.

The most import event in this chapter is Bobbie’s abrupt disloyalty of Joe. She was the first woman to whom Joe freely opened his heart. Joe’s youthful love for Bobbie existed on an unrealistic plane because he was able to confess his Negro blood to her and be accepted by her as an individual. However, her betrayal of his love, which is accompanied by the jeering of “nigger bastard,” implants the idea in his mind that owing to his blood he must remain the secluded person. Thus the episode with the dietitian and the interlude with Bobbie Allen convince Joe that he will never be able to have a trusting relationship with a woman.

The chapter wraps-up all the narration involving Joe’s early life. The two main types of influence are extreme rigidity and religious mania as seen in Hines and McEachern as opposed to the loose morality of the dietitian and Bobbie Allen. Joe’s conflict is presented in the contrasting manner in which he violently attacks (and perhaps kills) McEachern, and is, in turn, violently beaten up as a result of Bobbie Allen’s betrayal. The complexity is only going to continue.

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.