The Feminine Influence: Christmas and His Intense Misogyny
“It was not the hard work which he hated, nor the punishment and injustice. He was used to that before he ever saw either of them. He expected no less, and so he was neither outraged nor surprised. It was the woman: that soft kindness which he believed himself doomed to be forever victim of and which he hated worse than he did the hard and ruthless justice of men.” (Faulkner 158) In William Faulkner’s Light in August, Joe Christmas’s misogynistic view towards women has reason behind it, based on his negative past with significant female characters. The above quote emphasizes his feelings towards women, describing how Joe is able to handle the harshness of a man, but cannot stand the weak and nurturing nature of a woman. Moreover, he believes women are only out to make him cry, as we see with his attitude towards the dietitian and Mrs. McEachern. Over the course of his life, beginning with the absence of a mother, Joe has been impacted by several female influences, from a brief stint with an orphan girl, Alice, up to his lack of a relationship with his mother, Millie. These women have led to Joe’s distrust and pure hate of femininity. Alice, a twelve year-old girl from the orphanage, is his first encounter with a maternal figure. Joe relies on Alice as a supportive comfort, as he does not have a mother or any adult figure to turn to, for that matter. “He had liked her, enough to let her mother him a little; perhaps because of it. And so to him she was as mature, almost as large in size, as the adult women who ordered his eating and washing and sleeping, with the difference she was not and never would be his enemy. One night she waked him. She was telling him goodbye but he did not know it. He was sleepy and a little annoyed, never full awake, suffering her because she had always tried to be good to him. He didn’t know that she was crying because he did not know that grown people cried, and by the time he learned that, memory had forgotten her. He went back into sleep while still suffering her, and the next morning she was gone. Vanished, no trace of her left, not even a garment, the very bed in which she had slept already occupied by a new boy. He never did know where she went to.” (Faulkner 127-8) When Alice leaves, Joe is confused and feels lost. He then has no one to rely on, learn from, or be close to, in such a setting. With this experience, he feels as if women are unpredictable and will leave at any given point. There is not consistency in relationships with them and, therefore, they cannot be trusted. “The incident speaks volumes of what the child at the orphanage had lacked, the lack that was to warp him away from womankind” (Brooks xxiii). It is understandable that this “abandonment” could have such an impression on a young mind with no real stability in his life. The Freudian theory applies here, with the idea that childhood experiences mold an individual most significantly and they determine the attitudes and perceptions of said individuals in their futures. (Hamblin and Peek 303) Also at the orphanage is the dietitian, who is another female influence, contributing to Christmas’s misogynistic attitude. After Joe has been caught consuming pink toothpaste, he expects punishment. However, she does not reprimand him immediately and he agonizes over the anticipation. “It never occurred to her that he believed that he was the one who had been taken in sin and was being tortured with punishment deferred and that he was putting himself in her way in order to get it over with, get his whipping and strike the balance and write it off” (Faulkner 115). This is when he first gets the idea that women are only out to make him cry. He believes that the dietitian is intentionally torturing him by not immediately carrying through with a punishment for his wrongdoings. The action which “adds salt to the wound” is when the dietitian,...
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