- A Yankee, a lover of negroes, about whom in the town there is still talk of queer relations with negroes in the town and out of it, despite the fact that it is now sixty years since her grandfather and her brother were killed on the square by an exslaveowner over a question of negro votes in a state election.
This quotation refers to Miss Burden and the way the people in the town are still suspicious of her and her family. This demonstrates the prevalence of an unforgiving long memory and explains why she is an outcast in such a racist society. The use of stream of consciousness here is also evidence of Faulkner’s association with modernism.
- To the people of the town it sounded like a horsetrader’s glee over an advantageous trade.
In this quotation, there is a concise description of how the people of the town mistrusted Hightower when he first arrived at Jefferson. His delight in working in Jefferson and his ‘wild’ way of preaching were regarded with suspicion.
- Byron listened quietly, thinking to himself how people everywhere are about the same, but that it did seem that in a small town, where evil is harder to accomplish, where opportunities for privacy are scarcer, that people can invent more of it in other people’s names.
Here, Byron is used as a means to question the preponderance of gossip and rumor in a small town. This point is raised in relation to Hightower’s status as the outcast, but is relevant for explaining the generalized small mindedness of this community.
- Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.
This fragmented point comes at the beginning of Chapter Six and reflects Christmas’s incoherent thoughts as a child (and adult). The disrupted syntax is also used to reflect the influence of memory on the present and relates his shattered sense of identity.
- It was the woman: that soft kindness which he believed himself doomed to be forever victim of and which he hated worse than he did the hard and ruthless justice of men.
This reference describes Christmas’s preference for his adoptive father’s brutality over the secrecy and kindness of his adoptive mother. It is also an unchallenged acceptance of patriarchy as he embraces the misogyny that prevails in this society.
- Here bobbie here kid heres your comb you forgot it heres romeos chickenfeed too jesus he must have tapped the sunday school till ….
This dialogue appears as a stream of consciousness as Christmas lies on the floor beaten and Bobbie is urged to pick up the money he has bought for her. The lack of punctuation allows the sentences to merge and this enables a depiction of disengaged contempt for this young lover.
- It seemed to him that he could see himself being hunted by white men at last into the black abyss which had been waiting, trying, for thirty years to drown him and into which now and at last he had actually entered, bearing now upon his ankles the definite and ineradicable gauge of its upward moving.
This key quotation refers to Christmas as he tries to survive on the run. It demonstrates how he has always felt under threat and at the mercy of white racists given his belief that he is of mixed race.
- He never acted like either a nigger or a white man. That was it. That was what made the folks so mad.
This refers to the apprehension of Christmas as he walks through Mottstown unbowed. Moreover, this quotation also highlights how this rigid Southern society that depends on hierarchies is undone and outraged by a man who cannot be officially categorized: he looks white, but it is thought that he is of mixed race. He embodies a confusion of categories as he does not fit into a rigid black and white view of the world.
- Listening, he seems to hear within it the apotheosis of his own history, his own land his own environed blood: that people from which he sprang and among whom he lives who can never take either pleasure or catastrophe or escape from either, without brawling over it.
As Hightower considers the sound of ‘Protestant music’, he relates it to a history of violence.
- It was as though he had set out and made his plans to passively commit suicide.
This is a reference to Christmas’s death; it is perhaps also true of his life.
Light in August: Top Ten Quotes