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Research Papers on the Southern Past in Light in August

William Faulkner's stories make for an excellent study into Southern Life. The writers at Paper Masters will custom write a research project on the Southern past, as it is reflected in Faulkner's Light in August. Our literature experts will write on Faulkner or any other Southern writer you need explicated.

Some topics to explore the theme of the Southern past in Light in August include the following:

  1. A character study on the Reverend Gail Hightower
  2. The theme of legacy, as it is reflected in Light in August
  3. How community is an important part of the Southern PastSouthern Past in Light in August

The character in which the specter of Southern Past is most evident is the Reverend Gail Hightower. As evidenced by his last name, Hightower’s obsessive reverence for the past has alienated him from the community, rendering him immutably alone and unable to function normally. He spends his life endlessly recounting the deeds of his grandfather, a man who died in the midst of a dubious act of pillage during the Civil War. Dedicated to preserving the legend of his grandfather, Hightower rejects the model of his hardworking, honest, but unextraordinary father, and cultivates the larger-than-life fable of his grandfather. In this act, Hightower effectively surrenders his own potential for greatness and fades into obsolescence, a victim of the insidious hegemony of Southern Pastern past.

The community is also influenced to an enormous degree by Southern Pastern past. Even the town’s name, Jefferson, is a constant signifier of the tradition of Southern Past.  In Jefferson, the primary manifestation of Southern Pastern past is the intricate, complex social system that serves to grant people their standing in the community, or to take it away.  Even in the face of the radical changes the twentieth century has ushered in with it, the citizens of Jefferson cling to the vestiges of Southern Pastern past to dictate their behavior and define their worth.

This is most obvious in the way the townspeople deal with the problem of interracial relations. Even while the system of institutionalized slavery has crumbled in the wake of the Civil War, the citizens of Jefferson have held fast to their resolute belief in the natural inferiority of blacks, and, by extension, their own natural superiority.  The notion of black inferiority is the center around which all other beliefs and actions are organized in the community: any mention of a black person’s presence or involvement invokes a rigid set of rules that dictate the way the situation will be dealt with. The belief in the natural inferiority and innate depravity of blacks is the galvanizing force in white Jefferson.

In Light in August, Faulkner shows how preoccupation with race can distort the impulses and behaviors of people, no matter what their stated perspective of the issue of race relations is. The characters in the text can be placed on a broad continuum of political stances towards blacks, from Joanna Burden, to Doc Hines, to Percy Grimm. In all of these cases, Faulkner demonstrates that the particular belief system of the individual is less important than their willingness to let their personal beliefs affect their treatment of others.

Faulkner’s Light in August is a momentous work that expertly undertakes an exploration of a wide range of issues extant in the South and on the more universal scale of humanity in general.  By using the community as one of the units of examination, Faulkner effectively explores the effect a society can have on the system of actions, behaviors, and choices that can profoundly change the lives of countless people.

In the text, Faulkner uses the community to mediate the polarities that exist in both the characters and in the society at large. The citizens of Jefferson mindlessly perpetuate the system of classification and categorization that has divided the town for years. Through this, Faulkner demonstrates that the unthinking systems of behavior that are associated with the tradition of a community can bring about its moral downfall if they are applied without human intervention and concern for the welfare of others.

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