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In The Novel A Light In August

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In The Novel, A Light In August, William Faulkner Introduces Us To Essay, Research Paper

a wide range of characters of various backgrounds and personalities.

Common to all of them is the fact that each is type cast into a certain

role in the novel and in society. Lena is the poor, white trash southern

girl who serves to weave the story together. Hightower is the fanatic

preacher who is the dark, shameful secret of Jefferson. Joanna Burden is

the middle-aged maiden from the north who is often accused of being a

?nigger-lover?. And Joe Christmas is the epitome of an outsider. None of

them are conventional, everyday people. They are all in some way

disjointed from society; they do not fit in with the crowd. That is what

makes them intriguing and that is why Faulkner documents their story.

Percy Grimm is another such character and he plays a vital role in the

novel. He is the one to finally terminate Joe Christmas, who has been

suffering his entire life. Grimm is the enforcer, the one man who will

uphold American pride at all costs. He also stands for everything in the

world that has held Christmas back. He is the prototype of the ruthless

enemy who is the source of all of Christmas? struggles. And Christmas can

never escape him. He can run, as he has been doing all his life and as he

does in his desperate attempt to escape. But he can never hide, as he

tries to do at Hightower?s and as he has been hiding his true self from

the world he hates so much. Percy Grimm represents the unmerciful society

that has restrained and persecuted Joe Christmas; it is only fitting that

he should be the one to finally bring him down in the end.

Percy Grimm was born into the American south and grew up to be a

symbol and backbone of the environment he was raised in. His only regret

in life is being born too late. He feels that his sole purpose in life

would be to fight in World War I and defend the country to which he is

completely and utterly devoted. But the war happened to occur in the time

period where ?he should have been a man instead of a child? (Faulkner,

p.450). So when he grows to be a man, he joins the National Guard, which

is the closest thing to an army he can find. But instead of protecting the

country from foreign enemies, his job with the National Guard entails

protecting the country from certain things within itself. Joe Christmas

and the situation he has created is a direct threat to Percy Grimm and the

establishment he represents. Although Grimm?s primary objective is to

protect Christmas from hostile crowds, Grimm is imprinted with a sort of

primitive and instinctive hatred for who Joe Christmas is, what he is, and

what he has done. Grimm sees him as a dangerous, unknown and more

importantly ?nigger-blooded? criminal. He had the nerve to violate and

savagely murder a white woman who happened to be part of Grimm?s

specifically drawn definition of ?American?. He has adopted, adheres to,

and enforces the

?belief that the white race is superior to any and all other

races and that the American is superior to all other white races and that

the American uniform is superior to all men, and that all that would ever

be required of him in payment for this belief, this privilege, would be

his own life? (Faulkner, p.451).

Percy Grimm is a tough, humorless, and forceful individual who commands

the respect of others. He is always on some sort of mission involving the

preservation of order and he is determined to use all of his resources to

accomplish his goal. Grimm is referred to by Faulkner as ?the Player?. His

main purpose in the novel is to play the part of the executioner.

Christmas does not stand much of a chance. Joe Christmas has always been

hampered by a society that shuns him, alienates him, disgraces him and

chases him away. Percy Grimm is the human representation of this society.

The climactic chase scene between Grimm and Christmas is symbolic of how

Christmas has been running from people and places all his life. He was on

the road all the time and was never able to settle down in one place for a

significant time period. Society never accepted his heritage and

personality and so he was always running away from it. But there comes a

point where he can run no longer. ?But there was too much running with

him, stride for stride with him. Not pursuers: but himself: years, acts,

deeds omitted and committed? (Faulkner, p.448). The handcuffs which hinder

his speed and mobility represent the burden he has carried throughout his

life. This burden includes his ancestry, his childhood, the people he has

encountered, acts he has committed, and the experiences he has had.

Eventually this all catches up to him as Grimm finally tracks him down and

shoots him. It is almost as if fate has decreed that there could be no

other end to the troubled life of Joe Christmas.

The name ?Grimm? is also quite significant. Faulkner has a

tendency to name his characters in such a way that their role in the story

is foretold at first glance. Percy Grimm is symbolic of the Grim Reaper.

This man is relentless in his pursuit of Joe Christmas, as is the fabled

messenger of death in his pursuit of a soul. The name ?Grimm? inspires

fear in the reader?s immediate reaction towards him. And his actions back

it up. The presence he radiates intimidates everyone he encounters to

submission. Eventually Joe Christmas succumbs to him amid a climactic

inner struggle involving his own perception of himself. As he lay dying,

he feels the evil, dark, and ?black? part of himself withering away. ?the

pent black blood seemed to rush like a released breath. It seemed to rush

out of his pale body? (Faulkner, p. 465). His soul has vanished and only

his pale, clean, ?white? body is left behind. This may be the reason that

at the time that Grimm is castrating him (one of the worst scenarios

imaginable to most men), he is at peace with himself. He has always hated

the ?black? side of himself because that is what everyone else hates about

him. Since everyone else is against him, he has turned against himself as

well. Grimm, who is a representation of southern society, is racist and

intolerant of Joe Christmas and what he has done. He shows no mercy in

finishing off his miserable, confused, and troubled life. And this is no

different from the way society has always treated him.

Although the actual character of Percy Grimm is only covered in a

few pages of the novel, the society he represents exists as the stage on

which the entire story is set. All of the main characters are intertwined

as they struggle to make a life in the post- Civil War American South. No

character has more trouble dealing with his identity in the cruel world

than Joe Christmas. He cannot continue to run and hide forever. He has

never been able to deal with who he truly is and what that means to the

people surrounding him. So he is constantly running away, literally and

figuratively. But when he tries to hide is when he is finally caught. This

occurrence has repeated itself time and time again throughout his life.

Whenever he remained in one place for too long, trying his best to make a

home, it comes to a crashing end and his on the run again. He leaves the

orphanage after he has sabotaged his existence there. He kills McEachern

and runs away from home. He gets beaten and robbed on his final night with

Bobbie. And he finally snaps and kills Joanna Burden and runs away for the

last time. As he runs through the woods during his final few moments on

earth, he is relentlessly chased by Percy Grimm, his enemy and torturer.

In one last desperate attempt to escape, he hides at Hightower?s and is

subsequently discovered and executed without mercy. But by this time, he

is at peace with himself, knowing that he will no longer be forced to run

and hide from anything. The society that holds him with such disdain has

finally won their eternal battle. But he just does not care anymore. Joe

Christmas surrenders to Percy Grimm with apathetic contentment.

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