Unnamed Jefferson Townspeople 8

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Unnamed Jefferson Townspeople 8
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Unnamed Jefferson Townspeople 8
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One of the narrative devices that Faulkner regularly deploys is using the larger population of Jefferson as a kind of chorus to provide commentary on the characters or events of a specific story. In each case it seems fair to say that the "townspeople" he uses this way are implicitly the white people, but it seems more accurate to create a separate "Character=Jefferson Townspeople" for each text in which the device occurs. This collective group of (white) people of Jefferson, referred to as "the town," plays a number of roles in Light in August, from watching the stories of Joe and Joanna and Hightower unfold to helping to tell them. As a kind of character, this group can be seen on Sunday mornings walking decorously to church "beneath parasols, carrying bibles and prayerbooks" (297), but we also see them telling Byron the sordid story of Hightower's marriage, and flocking to the jail or the courthouse to witness Christmas' arrest or trial. From their "ancestors" the current people of "the town" seem to have inherited strong critical opinions about strangers, outsiders, or any resident of Jefferson suspected of unconventional behavior. When Faulkner refers to the town, he sometimes intends for us to understand that the whole of white Jefferson shares a common opinion and judgment on a particular matter (e.g., shunning Joanna Burden because of her racial attitudes, family history, and present behavior). At other times, he divides the Jefferson townsfolk by class, gender, age, or profession (e.g., according to whether they know that Christmas and Brown sell bootleg whisky). At still other times, he shows segments of the town or the townspeople to be in disagreement (e.g., according to whether they wish to protect or prosecute the men who beat up Hightower). Faulkner does not present the opinion or judgment of black Jefferson under the name of townspeople; he almost invariably presents this material through individual characters, such as the boy that first directs Christmas to the Burden Place (227).