Light In August

The Effect of Joanna Burden’s Masculinity on the Jefferson Community 12th Grade

Although most men and women recognize how traditional gender roles dictate their actions in hopes of being accepted into society, very few can claim that they have been completely exiled from their community because they appear too “masculine” or vice-versa. In Light in August, the people of Jefferson are presented as a single antagonist in which they solely exist to oppose any unwanted change within the community. Joanna Burden is first introduced with feminine traits typical of a traditional female character; one that exists to serve the needs and wants of their male counterpart. As Joanna begins to develop a relationship with Joe Christmas, it is revealed that she also has an uncanny ability to embody masculine traits. However, the fact that Burden can neither be classified as a man nor woman challenges the town’s dislike towards gender fluidity. Joanna Burden’s blurred separation of masculinity and femininity is the most decisive factor in the Jefferson community’s collective decision to reject her from society.


Because of the townspeople’s need to uphold its traditional Southern values, the community of Jefferson becomes its own character that outcasts anyone who is deemed undesirable or incapable of conforming to their...

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