"Dry September" (Text Key 237)

short story

"Dry September" was first published in Scribner's Magazine in January 1931, and later that year it was republished in Faulkner's short story collection These 13. The theme of rape in "Dry September" is also central to Faulkner's novel Sanctuary, which appeared in 1931 as well. Likewise, the themes of racism and lynching in the short story point suggestively toward Faulkner's handing of the same subject matter a year later in his novel Light in August.

In February 1930, Faulkner sent an early version of the story, entitled "Drouth," to The American Mercury, which rejected it. Subsequent revisions of "Drouth" intensified its rhetorical force by rearranging the plot. In May 1930, Scribner's accepted the new version for $200, and eight months later published it as "Dry September."

One of Faulkner's most frequently anthologized works, "Dry September" has since appeared in A Rose for Emily and Other Stories (1945), The Faulkner Reader (1954), Modern Library's Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner (1962) and Random House's Collected Stories of William Faulkner (1950; republished in paperback by Vintage International in 1995). We adhere to the version of the story published in the latter volume.

Dating the Story: The story's main events occur on a "Saturday" (180).  The title gives us the month, and the fact that among the characters are two veterans of World War I tells us it takes place after 1918, but otherwise we have to speculate about the year. Our choice to set it in 1920 is extrapolated from the fact that the car belonging to Minnie's one beau, "the cashier in the bank," was "the first automobile in town" (174). In Faulkner's final novel, The Reivers (1962), the first car in Jefferson arrives in 1903, but in The Sound and the Fury, published the year before Faulkner wrote this short story, the "first auto in town" is the car that Herbert Head gives Caddie Compson in 1909. Neither of these cars is the "red runabout" in the story, but together with the narrative's statement that Minnie starts riding in the car "twelve years" prior to the day Will Mayes is lynched, they do give us a time frame for dating the story (174).  If this story's "first car" appears in 1908, then its September would be 1920 - though it has to be said that that's an editorial judgment; the September in question could have been as much as several years later.

References: Blotner, Joseph, Faulkner: A Biography (Random House, 1974); Fragnoli, A. Nicholas, Michael Golay, and Robert W. Hamlin, Critical Companion to William Faulkner: A Literary Response to His Life and Work (Facts on File, 2008).

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Scribner's Magazine
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January 1931
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Vintage International
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New York
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How to cite this resource:
Coleman, Robert, and Garrett Morrison. "Faulkner's 'Dry September.'" Added to the project: 2012. Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu