"Light in August" by William Faulkner: Response to Excerpt from Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Essay by mborn41 May 2006

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Excerpt: "The problems of the human heart in conflict with itself alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat."

William Faulkner argued convincingly, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, that human struggle makes for good writing. "Light in August" is a perfect example of this theory. In this novel, all the characters are affected by and involved in very basic and human conflicts: race, sexuality, religion, accountability, isolation. Byron Bunch has to weigh his need for privacy against his desire to comfort and care for others, Lena Grove and the Hines family. Joe Christmas is a very conflicted character; questions about his racial background and his confused relationships with women are always with him.

Byron Bunch revels in his self-imposed isolation. He lives alone, avoids his neighbors and the people of the town, works at the mill six days a week and then, every Sunday he leaves town in order to lead a country church's choir.

Until Lena Grove turns up, the only relationship Byron has developed is with Reverend Hightower, who functions as Byron's spiritual mentor. When Lena enters Byron's life, he immediately falls in love with her. This fact is very inconvenient, considering her obvious pregnancy and the absence of the baby's father.

Before he meets Lena, Byron avoids trouble at all costs, but because of his love for her, he dives headlong into her troubles. Despite everything he does to help Lena, he is conscious of his involvement in her predicament and what effect, if any, his help is having on Lena. After Lena's child is born, Byron comes to the realization that he was "nothing in this world to her right then" which broke his heart because he knew that he was going to lose her...