Reverend Gail Hightower

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Reverend Gail Hightower
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Hightower, Reverend Gail
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Reverend Gail Hightower's story is one of the three principal plot lines in Light in August. After seminary, he worked hard to secure the position of minister to the Presbyterian church in Jefferson, the site where his grandfather had died in a Civil War raid twenty years before his own birth. His obsession with that grandfather results in his loss of his wife, his pulpit and his vocation. For most of the twenty-five years he has lived in Jefferson, he has been treated as a pariah: the narrative describes him as a "fifty-year-old outcast" (49), "tall, with thin . . . legs and spare, gaunt arms" but also a "flabby and obese stomach" (308). His only human contact is with Bryon Bunch, through whom he unwillingly becomes a character in the stories of Lena Grove and Joe Christmas. Helping Lena bring her baby into the world makes him capable, briefly, of imagining a new life for himself - but in the end his story remains wholly determined by the past, as represented in the figure of the grandfather who died before he himself was born.