Comparing Faulkner's Light in August and James' Portrait of a Lady

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Comparing William Faulkner's Light in August and Henry James' Portrait of a Lady

Light in August and Portrait of a Lady are two novels which embodies within them, life affirming morals. Authors like William Faulkner and Henry James possess the art of making the reader learn by experiencing for themselves. William Faulkner uses the technique of introspection as well as by showing how characters and their actions can affect one another. Henry James also shows that a character’s actions and decisions can greatly affect one’s future and happiness. Both authors focus on the power of words that function only to categorize individuals into certain races or social classes.

William Faulkner, in Light in August, centers
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Even though Christmas looks white and was raised in a white orphanage, he is treated as black man. Even though Christmas looks white, he cannot escape from the expectations of a black man.

Christmas, throughout his relationships with black and white women, always tells them that he is part black. When Joanna Burden asked Joe if he knew for sure that is he part nigger, he answers, “I don’t know it...If I’m not, damned if I haven’t wasted a lot of time.” (p. 188) Christmas could just hide his ethnicity. However, the label taunts him and leaves a lasting impression. The label causes Christmas to experience an identity crisis. He lives his whole life based on his own expectations of black men.

Joe Christmas induces pain on himself by fighting with white men and black men. Christmas teases white men into calling him “nigger” and black men into calling him white. He fights, and is sometimes beaten. Christmas hurts himself in order to find out if he belongs in a distinct category. The label of “nigger” affects the way he lives his life. The way he lives his life affects the society around him as he vents his frustration and confusion on others.

The racial expectations of Joe Christmas also includes sexual expectations. Black men were expected to be vigorous in bed. They were also expected to be violently passionate. Physically, black men were expected to be more powerful and more developed. When
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