Joanna Burden

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Joanna Burden
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Burden, Joanna
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A major character in Light in August, Joanna Burden is a middle-aged spinster who has lived in the "old colonial plantation house" (36) outside Jefferson since she was born, yet "she is still a stranger, a foreigner whose people moved in from the North during Reconstruction" (46). Nurturing and helpful to local Negroes, and a contributor to and supporter of many Negro schools and colleges across the South, she is regarded by the townspeople as a "Yankee, a lover of Negroes" (46). She is forty-something when she begins her complex and ultimately fatal relationship with Joe Christmas. Her death at his hands transforms her standing with the white townspeople. She re-appears only once in the fictions, or rather her name does, when in The Mansion a character uses "Miss Joanna Burden's mailbox one mile west of the courthouse" as a geographical reference point (206).