"That evening sun" by William Faulkner

Essay by mihailova October 2004

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William Faulkner's story "That evening sun" is a dark portrait of white Southerners' indifference to the crippling fears of one of their black employees. It is also an exploration of terror, vengeance and solitude.

Nancy, the main character in the story, is a typical African-American woman, "she was tall, with a high, sad face sunken a little where her teeth were missing."

Nancy is obviously high, and when the police are taking her away, she refers to her relationship with Mr. Stovall ("It's been three weeks since he paid me a cent.") He knocks her down and kicks her teeth in. Nancy is laughing as she spits out her teeth, oblivious to the pain. Later, when the children are in Nancy's cottage, Nancy puts her hand on the hot globe of a lamp and doesn't even know she is burning. So, Nancy is a very strong woman, she even doesn't feel any physical pain, because it can't be compared to her heart sufferings.

Nancy also has a violent fantasy of what she would do to Jesus if he remarried: "... and every time he wropped her, I'd cut that arm off. I'd cut her head off and I'd slit her belly and I'd shove..."

In the story, the African-American washerwoman, Nancy, fears that her common-law husband, Jesus, is seeking to murder her because she is pregnant with a white man's child. She can feel his presence and thinks that he is lying in the ditch with his knife waiting to kill her. Faulkner creates the universal human emotion of terror in the specific terms of the deep south. Nancy's hopelessness at her situation stems not just from her relation to her husband, but in who she is, powerless in the society. This can be clearly seen in...