Light In August

Light In August Character List


Armstid is visiting Winterbottom when Lena walks by on her way to Jefferson. He picks up Lena on his way home, and she spends the night with him and his wife. He is one of the many who try (and fail) to warn Lena of her naiveté.

Miss Atkins

Miss Atkins is the dietitian at Joe Christmas's orphanage. She is 27 years old and "smooth-looking," in the eyes of the five-year-old Christmas. She becomes filled with rage at Christmas when he witnesses her engaging in a tryst with one of the doctors because she is unintelligent enough to believe he understood what was happening. To punish him and to remove the imagined threat, she tells the matron that Christmas is part black to get him removed from their orphanage.

Mrs. Beard

Mrs. Beard runs the boarding house where Byron lives, but she still knows almost as little about Byron as everybody else.

Byron Bunch

Byron is a middle-aged single man who works six days a week. Although he has lived in Jefferson for seven years, only Reverend Hightower knows him well. He lives at Mrs. Beard's boarding house, and every Saturday evening rides thirty miles into the country to spend Sunday leading the choir in a country church in an all-day service. He falls in love with Lena as soon as he meets her.

Bobbie Allen

Bobbie came from Memphis to work as a prostitute in Jefferson. As a cover she works as a waitress in a dingy diner, where Christmas meets her. She becomes his first girlfriend and lover. She is very slight in a way that suggests inner corruption, and she is much older than Christmas, although he doesn't realize it. After Christmas kills McEachern, she becomes insane with rage and returns to Memphis.

Eupheus "Uncle Doc" Hines

Christmas's grandfather and the janitor at the orphanage, Doc Hines is a rabid little man. He is small, grey, and incredibly dirty, with a maniacal belief in a racist God. He lives in utter poverty, relying on the charity of black people to survive, and yet he preaches the superiority of the white man in black churches.

Reverend Gail Hightower

Hightower was kicked out of the church after a tragic scandal involving his wife. He came to Jefferson because he it is the site of the Civil War past of his family, with which he is completely obsessed. He refuses to step down from the church until he is literally locked out, at which point he still refuses to leave Jefferson. He spends the rest of his life living in almost complete solitude, save for his interactions with Byron Burch.

Gavin Stevens

Gavin Stevens is the District Attorney in Joe Christmas's case. He is a Harvard graduate from an old family in Jefferson, and something of an intellectual snob.

Mrs. Hines

Mrs. Hines, like her husband, is small, grey, and borderline insane. Thirty years ago she was devastated by the loss of her daughter and grandson, so when Christmas surfaces again she starts to have hope.

Joanna Burden

Joanna is a middle-aged spinster who has lived alone for as long as anyone can remember. She is considered a stranger by the town because her people moved in from the North during reconstruction, and have always worked to better the situation of the black people in Jefferson. She is considered a Yankee, and is essentially cut off from the town that she has lived in her whole life.

Jody Varner

Jody owns the store where Armstid drops Lena off on her way to Jefferson.

Joe Christmas

Christmas is an orphan of ambiguous racial descent. He is raised in an orphanage until accusations of his black heritage force the matron to arrange an adoption. After killing his adopted father at eighteen, he spends his life wandering from city to city until he ends up in Jefferson. He is tormented by his racial identity to the point that he often becomes dangerous to others. He also seems to hate women, and rarely shows any emotion.

Lena Grove

Orphaned at the age of twelve, Lena goes to live with her older brother. At twenty, she starts sneaking out to meet a man, which quickly results in pregnancy. When she is just over seven months pregnant, she starts walking away from her home in hopes of finding the father before the baby is born. Lena is calm and steadfast, with an air of innocence that belies her pregnant, unmarried state.

Lucas Burch

Lucas is the father of Lena's baby, but he skips town as soon as he finds out about it. He is young and tall, and very far from serious. He goes by "Brown" in Jefferson, where he ends up after leaving Lena. In Jefferson, he forms a bootlegging partnership with Joe Christmas. He has enough looks and charm to impress the ladies, but his coworkers at the mill find him empty and useless.

Mame and Max Confrey

The Confreys own the diner/prostitution house in Jefferson where Bobbie works. Mame is big and blond, and Max is ruthless.

Martha Armstid

Armstid's wife Martha has a cold, harsh face, and has raised five children. She is very generous to Lena.


McEachern is a hard man who lives by the belief that the two abominations are "sloth" and "idle thinking," and the two virtues "work" and "the fear of God." He is a diehard Presbyterian, and does his best (using mostly violence) to inculcate the same beliefs into Christmas. He is ruthless and has never known either pity or doubt.

Mrs. McEachern

McEachern's wife is a small, slightly hunched, beaten-looking woman. She tries to help Christmas and wants to share secrets with him, but he finds her feminine kindnesses disconcerting, and so she lives completely ignored by husband and adopted son.

McKinley Grove

McKinley is Lena's brother whom she goes to live with after the death of their parents. McKinley works in the mill like all of the men in his village. He is twenty years older than Lena, and has a large and continually growing number of children. He is a man turned hard by labor.


Mooney is the foreman at the planing mill in Jefferson.

Nathaniel Burden

Nathaniel is Joanna's father, who is long dead at the time of most of the action of the novel, but whose story Joanna tells Christmas. He runs away from home at fourteen, and has a son with a woman of Spanish decent whom he eventually brings home to marry. He, like his father, is obsessed with the sin of slavery, and believes that the black race is the symbol of the white man's doom.

Percy Grimm

Percy Grimm is about twenty-five years old, and is a captain in the State National Guard. The tragedy of his life is that he was born too late to fight in the Great War, but soon enough to hear about it. His sublime faith in physical courage, blind obedience, and the superiority of white America makes him the perfect soldier. He sets out to prevent the town from lynching Christmas, but then Grimm himself kills and castrates him.


Simms is the superintendent at the planing mill in Jefferson where Byron, Lucas and Christmas work.

Watt Kennedy

Kennedy is the sheriff of Jefferson. He shares the general racism of the community, and thus believes that Christmas killed Joanna Bundren as soon as Burch tells him that Christmas is black. He is a fat, comfortable-looking man with a benevolent face.


Winterbottom is selling a cultivator, but won't accept Armstid's low price.