Faulkner's novel treats many themes of the US South – sex, violence, racism, fanatical religion, and mob-action. Kinder traits are there too, by way of strangers who offer support to a pregnant woman making her way as an outcast in search of the absconding father of her baby.
Zakia, Sunil, Shnaz, Priya, Thommo
One of the less prominent themes is how many of the characters are lonely outsiders, poorly integrated into society, and living out the history of their tortured past.
Shahnaz, Priya, Thommo, KumKum
Faulkner is determined to write about things close to the bone, throwing light (Light in August) on the dark recesses of society in an era when racism was institutionalised, and Emancipation was still a theoretical notion, especially in the states of the Confederacy.
Several readers found a resonance between the descriptions of rape in the novel, and the attitudes prevalent in modern India, not just among the lumpen elements (to use a phrase Gopa is fond of). Evil lurks throughout the novel and readers have a sense that nothing good will come of it in the end.
Painting by Willem de Kooning titled 'Light in August'
One of the eloquent statements in the novel stands at the beginning of Chapter 6 when Joe Christmas is a lad of five, yet to undergo his life-changing experiences. Presaging those events the author writes:
Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.
Thommo, Priya, KumKum, Pamela, Gopa, Sunil, Joe (Zakia & Shahnaz left early)