Light in August: Chapters 14-15
In Chapter Fourteen, the deputy reports to the sheriff that Lena is living in the cabin and Bunch has explained to him that she is pregnant to Brown. The sheriff decides not to tell Brown about her presence yet.
The narrative shifts to 3 pm Wednesday when an African-American man comes to see the sheriff having travelled 20 miles. He had been at a revival meeting when a white man entered by crashing open the door. People began screaming and running as they thought he was the devil. After the man knocked down a 70-year-old deacon, he cursed God from the pulpit and the deacon’s grandson, Roz, had to be restrained from getting revenge on him. At this point the man left to bring the sheriff. As the events unfolded, the man (Christmas) knocked Roz out, smoked a cigarette and left. The sheriff comes to the church with his men, the hounds and Brown and they find a scrap of paper with an undisclosed message for the sheriff. Brown shouts ‘I told you’, and is quieted down.
They set off after Christmas and the deputy believes they are a mile away. The sheriff asks Brown why he does not run on to ensure his reward, but he does not respond. The posse reach a cabin and find an African-American woman wearing Christmas’s shoes. She took them in exchange for her husband’s.
The narrative switches its focus to Christmas and how he feels he is being hunted by white men into the ‘black abyss’ that has been waiting for him (and that he has waited for) for 30 years. He breathes in and becomes one with loneliness and feels outside of time now. He stops a wagon that is travelling to Mottstown and is given a lift. When they arrive, he feels as though he has ‘never got outside the circle’, and has ‘never broken out of the ring of what I have already done and cannot ever undo’. He senses a ‘black tide’ creep up his legs as death approaches.
Chapter Fifteen begins with the readers being told that Christmas was captured in Mottstown on Friday. The narrative cuts to an old white couple called Hines who live in a poor African-American neighborhood. They moved to the town around 30 years ago and for the first five years Hines was only at home once a month. It was thought he had a position in Memphis. He is also known as Uncle Doc and although he is secretive, it is known he travels to African-American churches and preaches white superiority. The African-Americans think he is ‘crazy’, but help the couple by bringing them food.
Hines is in town when Christmas is captured and hears his name mentioned. He looks at his face and hits him with his walking stick. The crowd stop him, but he shouts ‘kill the bastard!’ Mrs Hines hears the news when her husband is brought home and judging by her reaction it is clear that she also knows who Christmas is. She asks her husband what he did with Milly’s baby.
The narrative moves to the white people of Mottstown and to some of them saying that he does not ‘look any more like a nigger than I do’, and then blaming his heritage for the murder. Christmas was apprehended by someone who recognized him and the whites are ‘so mad’ at him for not acting like ‘either a nigger or a white man’.
Hines returns to town a half hour later and calls people cowards for not taking Christmas out of jail and hanging him. He says he has the right to kill, but does not explain why. His wife appears in town (for the first time) and tells him to shut up, and he does so. She enters the jail and asks to see Christmas, but is told she must ask the sheriff. She misses the sheriff, but sees Christmas being led away to be taken back to Jefferson. She makes her way through the crowd and manages to look at his face.
The Hines attempt to rent a car to go to Jefferson. As this is too expensive, they sit and wait for the train to arrive at 2 am.
Analysis - Chapters Fourteen and Fifteen
Chapter Fourteen is significant for the revelation that Christmas feels as though he is being hunted into the ‘black abyss’ that has been waiting for him. This hints at pre-destination, but is also an indicator of Christmas’s alienation from the white-dominated society. He has never felt he has completely belonged and this is because of his belief that he is of mixed race. His character is used as a means to explore how deeply entrenched racism is in the South.