The town is abuzz with the news of Christmas’s capture and with Mr. Hines’s bizarre behavior—after being taken home, the old man reappeared suddenly downtown, demanding that Christmas be killed immediately rather than turned over to the authorities in Jefferson. Mrs. Hines then goes to the jail, asking to see Christmas. The jailer says she must secure the sheriff’s permission first. While she is off trying to do so, officials from Jefferson arrive to retrieve Christmas.

A large crowd has gathered, uninterested in the reward money and calling Christmas’s immediate death. The men from Jefferson, however, are able to escort the prisoner out of the courthouse and head him to the waiting cars. Breaking through the crowd, Mrs. Hines stands before Christmas and looks at his face before he is put in the car and driven off. Retrieving her husband, she tries to hire a car to take them to Jefferson, but it is too expensive. That night, the couple waits at the depot for the 2:00a.m. train that will take them to Jefferson.


Joe, on the lam, slides further and further from his own existence, crossing over a threshold to embrace and embody his bestial associations. On the run essentially since he has been a teenager, he has fallen outside of time and no longer has any idea what day it is. This change in him signals an even more foreboding distance and removal from humanity, an even wider gulf between Christmas and any form of acceptance, salvation, or belonging. “When he thinks about time,” Faulkner writes, “it seems to him now that for thirty years he has lived inside an orderly parade of named and numbered days like picket fences, and that one night he went to sleep and when he waked up he was outside of them.” As Joe plunges deeper and deeper into the backcountry, the ties that bind him to ordered, regulated society are severed. Night and day, the broad categories that provide order and a sense of definition are rendered meaningless. Joe’s evolution and eventual slippage outside of time mirrors the personal journey of Hightower, whose self-imposed exile slowly divorces him from a sense of time as it governs the outside world. In his cloistered realm, Hightower slides dangerously into a world of his own making, where he is beholden to none.

The importance—or lack of importance—that time has to many of the characters is reflected in the general overarching structure of the novel, with its cyclical structure and temporal shifts, as the main current of the plot is continuously interrupted with flashbacks and recurrences of the same event as told from various opposing perspectives. A prime example comes in the account of Christmas’s attack on the rural black church. The man sent to summon the sheriff does not know how the scene eventually plays out, and he mistakenly believes that Christmas has been killed by one of the angry parishioners. The partial, subjective, or erroneous information that individual characters contribute to the narrative underscores the lack of cohesion and unification that plagues the characters of Christmas, Miss Burden, and Hightower.

This section of the novel marks yet another evolution as Lena returns, drawn back into the action and thereby shifting the focus from the dark musings and aggressions of Joe Christmas to her guileless optimism and unquenchable life force. Lena takes up residence in the now abandoned cabin on the Burden property, symbolically replacing Christmas and negating his destructive presence. Whereas he brought death and suffering, she brings new life in the form of the newborn son she is about to deliver. As Joe moves deeper into self-annihilation, his existence is effaced he stands outside even nature itself—“a foreigner to the very immutable laws which earth must obey.” Lena, conversely, is tied vibrantly to time, subject to a cycle governed by the natural realm. Her baby represents a hope and a boundless possibility that Joe was never able to fulfill.