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Joe Christmas’ search for idnentity in William Faulkner’s Light in August
1999 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

In this essay I will investigate the search for identity of Joe Christmas in William Faulkner’s Light in August. I will study the ideas, beliefs and events that can convince a seemingly white man that he is actually a black man. My thesis is that cultural assumptions about race, gender and religion form Christmas’ identity. As his life shows a descending curve, I will also investigate if his life can be seen as a purgation in the sense that he has to be broken down both physically and mentally to be able to find his identity. As we will see it is the society’s beliefs and ideas that commands the destiny of Joe Christmas. What mostly affects his decision to identify himself as a black man is the belief that the black race has been cursed by God, a belief that has its origin in distorted interpretations of the Bible. The dominant religious group in Yoknapatwpha county is Calvinistic, a denomination that strongly emphasises that God is stern and judging, and that you have to be without sin to be one of his elect. During Christmas’ search for identity he finds himself doing more and more of the things a damned man does. He has sex, he drinks and smokes and he commits all those things he has been taught are sins, even committing murder. As Christmas believes that he is damned because of his sins, he also believes that he is damned because he is a black man. In his mind the Calvinist beliefs in the sinfulness of mankind, and that the black man is cursed by God become one. To Christmas the ideas of race and religion are inseparable. It might seem as if those who mostly affect his destiny are zealots in their beliefs, but that is because they are reflections of a rigid society that claims God’s guidance to justify their actions; also Christmas is as fanatic in his beliefs as are all of the other characters. There are no in-betweens in Yoknapatwhpha county; there are only blacks or whites, elected or damned. Christmas searches for his identity for thirty years without being able to decide, trying to live as an outcast, but also he is in the end forced to choose. But it is not until he has been broken down both mentally and physically that he is able to chose and find peace of mind. The descending curve and the upward move is very clear in Christmas life, and therefore his search for identity can be seen as a purgation. As Christmas finally decides that he is part black, he finds peace of mind and his search for identity is over.

Abstract [en]

In this essay I will investigate the search for identity of Joe Christmas in William Faulkner’s Light in August. I will study the ideas, beliefs and events that can convince a seemingly white man that he is actually a black man. My thesis is that cultural assumptions about race, gender and religion form Christmas’ identity. As his life shows a descending curve, I will also investigate if his life can be seen as a purgation in the sense that he has to be broken down both physically and mentally to be able to find his identity. _x000B_ As we will see it is the society’s beliefs and ideas that commands the destiny of Joe Christmas. What mostly affects his decision to identify himself as a black man is the belief that the black race has been cursed by God, a belief that has its origin in distorted interpretations of the Bible. The dominant religious group in Yoknapatwpha county is Calvinistic, a denomination that strongly emphasises that God is stern and judging, and that you have to be without sin to be one of his elect. During Christmas’ search for identity he finds himself doing more and more of the things a damned man does. He has sex, he drinks and smokes and he commits all those things he has been taught are sins, even committing murder. As Christmas believes that he is damned because of his sins, he also believes that he is damned because he is a black man. In his mind the Calvinist beliefs in the sinfulness of mankind, and that the black man is cursed by God become one. To Christmas the ideas of race and religion are inseparable. It might seem as if those who mostly affect his destiny are zealots in their beliefs, but that is because they are reflections of a rigid society that claims God’s guidance to justify their actions; also Christmas is as fanatic in his beliefs as are all of the other characters. There are no in-betweens in Yoknapatwhpha county; there are only blacks or whites, elected or damned. Christmas searches for his identity for thirty years without being able to decide, trying to live as an outcast, but also he is in the end forced to choose. But it is not until he has been broken down both mentally and physically that he is able to chose and find peace of mind. The descending curve and the upward move is very clear in Christmas life, and therefore his search for identity can be seen as a purgation. As Christmas finally decides that he is part black, he finds peace of mind and his search for identity is over.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
1999. , 28 p.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-53935Local ID: ENG D-7OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-53935DiVA: diva2:1102495
Subject / course
English
Available from: 2017-05-29 Created: 2017-05-29

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