- That Evening Sun
"That Evening Sun" is a short story by the American author
William Faulkner, published in 1931 on the collection "These 13", which included Faulkner's most anthologized story, "A Rose for Emily." "That Evening Sun" is a dark portrait of white Southerners' indifference to the crippling fears of one of their African-American employees, Nancy. The story is narrated by Quentin Compson, one of Faulkner's most memorable characters, and concerns the reactions of he and his two siblings, Caddy and Jason, to an adult world that they do not fully understand. The African-American washerwoman, Nancy, fears that her common-law husband Jesus is seeking to murder her because she is pregnant with a white man's child. The title is taken from a blues song by William Christopher Handy, although there is no mention of this in the story.
Quentin narrates the story in the turn of the century, presumedly at age twenty-four (although in "
The Sound and the Fury" he commits suicide at age nineteen), telling of events that took place fifteen years before. Nancy is an African-American washerwoman working for Quentin's family since their regular cook, Dilsey, is taken sick. Jesus, Nancy's common-law husband, suspects that she is pregnant with a white man's child and leaves her. At first Nancy is worried about going home at night and running into Jesus, but soon she is paralyzed with the fear of him murdering her, and having delusions of him being hidden in a ditch outside her house.
Quentin and his siblings witness all of this, given that they are present in every major conversation between their father and Nancy, who tries to help her up to a certain extent, first by taking her home at night. Their mother feels jealous and insecure that her husband is more worried about protecting some "Negro woman" than herself. He puts her up one night at Quentin and Caddy's room after not being able to stay alone in the kitchen. The kids, however, have no idea of what's going on, and cannot understand why Nancy is afraid of Jesus in the first place.
The situation gets out of hand as Nancy begins to be crippled by her fear. One night she feels so impotent that she talks the kids into going home with her. There, she is not able to attend to them, tell them proper stories or even make them some popcorn. Jason, the youngest, starts to cry. Their father arrives and tries to talk some sense into Nancy, who fears Jesus will come out of the darkness of the ditch outside as soon as they go away. The story ends as the father walks the children back - not the least bit affected by Nancy's situation, the kids still teasing each other and the father scolding them.
This story appears as "That Evening Sun Go Down" in "The Best American Short Stories of the Century" by John Updike, Katrina Kenison.
* [http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-thateveningsun/ BookRags (commercial)] Study Guide on "That Evening Sun"
* [http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/id-110,pageNum-14.html CliffsNotes (free)] Comment & Summary of "That Evening Sun"
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