Bunch works Saturdays at the mill, not merely for overtime but because he worries that he will fall into mischief otherwise. His only confidant is Reverend Gail Hightower—the only man who knows that Byron rides thirty miles out into the country to lead an all-day church choir each Sunday.

One Saturday, a fire breaks out at the Burden house on the edge of town. Byron, the only man working at the mill, watches the smoke rise as he works. He is interrupted when Lena Grove comes in suddenly and says she is looking for a Lucas Burch. Despite Lena’s obviously illicit pregnancy, Byron falls in love with her at once; he says that there is no one named Burch at the mill and that she must have heard of a “Bunch.”

Lena tells Byron her story, and he tells her about Miss Burden and the two Joes—Christmas and Brown—who live at her place. When she hears about the latter Joe, she perks up immediately and asks whether Brown has a small white scar by his mouth. With a sinking feeling, Byron admits that he indeed does, realizing that Joe Brown and Lucas Burch must be one and the same.


Faulkner’s groundbreaking style and unique ways of appropriating words are apparent from the opening sentence of Light in August. From the first paragraph, his prose “looks” different from the orderly, regulated sentences of a traditional narrative. Technical elements, such as the spacing and typography—especially the use of italicized text and sometimes nontraditional punctuation—add additional peculiarities to the manner in which the story unfolds. Immediately, Faulkner’s unorthodox prose reveals information about character and plot. In particular, his use of colloquialisms, regionalisms, and other idiomatic speech plunges us abruptly into the world he has created. On the first page, Lena announces, “I have come from Alabama: a fur piece. . . . from Alabama a-walking.” The novel starts with a journey already in progress, undertaken by a young woman whose twang and rural slang immediately reveal much of her background. As Lena’s words continue, they shift from speech to thought and from regular type into a brief italicized monologue.

Faulkner’s creative use of typography and punctuation are not random choices, nor are they gratuitous attempts to add complexity to his writing or set himself apart from his contemporaries. Rather, these techniques are crucial to his rich and varied method of creating and developing his characters. As a modernist, Faulkner conveys in his works the idea that no one version or approach is reliable enough to convey a full, objectively accurate impression of a time, place, action, or motivation. Objectivity is impossible; instead, various perspectives and competing viewpoints combine to provide a richer, more realistic, and multifaceted portrait of the elusive qualities that constitute “truth.” Faulkner does not limit this approach solely to his portrayal of the community and social structures that constitute public life in Yoknapatawpha County; he applies it just as much to individual characters, who are infused with various—often competing—layers of consciousness.

This complexity becomes apparent as the characters reveal their inner natures through the wealth of modes that Faulkner employs. When a character speaks, verbalizing his or her thoughts or reactions, Faulkner indicates this in traditional fashion, through the use of double quotation marks (e.g., “I”). However, thoughts that remain internal and unspoken, often spilling out in a loose, stream-of-consciousness manner, are indicated by single quotation marks (e.g., ‘I’). Finally, the third layer to Faulkner’s character development consists of unconscious thoughts—the characters’ innermost psychological workings, of which even they themselves may not be aware. These are indicated in italics.