The story "Light in August" was first named by Faulkner as the "Dark House" and was officially published on October 9, 1932. It is considered that the origin of the "Dark House" was due to the frustration Faulkner felt within himself after the death of his beloved daughter; nothing stopped Faulkner from going wild because of her daughter's death.
It was Faulkner's depression that his creation of "Joe Christmas" revolves around identity framed provocatively in terms of displaced persons in a culture that set an exceedingly high premium upon everyone having a place and staying in it according to race, sex, and class. Joe Christmas was a child born of a white mother but who could never know his race because no one really knew whether his father was black or white. In the end Joe Christmas was sacrificed, and his death represents something of compensation for the social sins of others. One feels that he found his place in dying for their salvation, as he always remained skeptical about his identity. (Williamson, 1993).
Faulkner portrays a white man whose "black blood" has in effect been imposed on him by external forces. Nothing in Joe's appearance indicates that he is anything but white, to the point where he is able throughout the novel to move easily in white society without anyone suspecting him as black. Even at the barbershop where he is given close attention to his face and hair, possessing all physical signs of Negro origins, easily detectable, no one recognizes him as the "nigger murderer" carrying a price on his head. Despite of having physical features of a nigger, people don't consider and accept him as a nigger of that town and it often happens that Joe is referred to as "Joe, the white nigger" an obvious oxymoron in the 1930s South.
In Robert Penn Warren's words,
"Faulkner here undercuts the official history and mythology of a whole society by indicating that the 'nigger' is a creation of the white man." (Singal J., 1997)
Joe, the son of a sinful Southern white girl and a carnival dark man, possibly a Mexican considers his father to be partially black, or he might not have been black at all. The crucial factor was that neither Joe nor anyone else could ever know with certainty whether he was black or white in a society in which everything began with that definition. Faulkner has created Joe Christmas as a hostile vagrant, a person who remains unsure of him and who tries to find out his racial identity. Faulkner has made Christmas a disputed and lonely character who, has been viewed as an intense example of modern urban estrangement. He is constantly seeking his identity and always negate the society for the rules the society possesses. He depicts the picture of an all-alone isolated personality who is expecting the society to change for him. At times Joe is wearing dress, white shirt with black pants, which suggests his internal division. And this divided character may even symbolize the racial conflict of the South as a whole.
Faulkner has painted Joe in such a manner right from his infancy to adolescence, that it is clear that