Short Story #254: That Evening Sun by William Faulkner

Title:  That Evening Sun

Author:  William Faulkner


Photo of Sinclair Lewis. Image Source: story begins by remarking how the town of Jefferson has changed over the years with the wide use of cars.  Over the same roads, fifteen years ago, Mondays were filled with African American laundry women bringing clothes to and from white-owned houses. The narrator explains that one of these women was named Nancy and she used to clean and eventually cooked for his family.  However, the man she lives with, Jubah,  was always looked at with disdain by the family.  He had a razor scar down his face and the children were not to go near Nancy's house.  So they would throw rocks at the house to get Nancy's attention to come cook breakfast.  Nancy is not feeling well and the kids think she is drunk but they soon learn that she is pregnant.  They relate a tale of her being severely beaten by a white man who hasn't paid her (for something that isn't disclosed).  The narrator explains that Jubah used to hang around the house when Nancy worked but the family didn't want him around.  Jubah was angered by this.  Later, when after a meal, the narrator is sent to see if Nancy is done cleaning the dishes.  The narrator checks on her and she says she's finished but she also identifies how utterly hopeless she feels.  When the parents inquire further, it is further divulged that Jubah has left and that Nancy is scared to walk back in the dark.  The father volunteers to walk her back to her house for protection--against the dark and possible Jubah who may have returned.  The mother is not thrilled about this, but the  father and the kids go along with Nancy.  Walking Nancy home becomes a regular activity until the mother grows answer.  A short-term solution is to put a cot up in the kitchen.  During the night, she is making noise which the father investigates and Nancy is then relocated to the children's room, fearful that Jubah might be out there.  The cook returns to work soon and she chats with Nancy about Jubah's whereabouts.  Nancy is certain he is near and ready to kill her.  Nancy fears returning to the cabin and tries to get the children to ask the parents to let her stay but the mother won't have it.  Finally, the mother tells Nancy to leaves and exits the room.  With the children, Nancy prods the children to get them to agree that they've had fun and enjoyed the night she stayed.  She explains that they can have just as much fun at her house if they follow her home.  With some coaxing, they go with her and follow her to her house.  They enter and despite her claim to have fun, the children have largely lost interest and are wanting to go home.  She continues to find ways to entertain them but none of them are particularly effective and the children begin to get upset.  They hear a noise outside and Nancy becomes upset and lets out a noise she had previously when she thought Jubah was near.  They soon learn that the approaching noise is the father.  He takes the children and leave.  They continue to ask about what has Nancy riled up and the father tells them there is no one to be feared off.  The children past the ditch--the mark between the white and black parts of town and descending into bickering again. 


There's a fascinating range of interactions going on within this story and Faulkner stacks them so well so that it's clear how the adults interact with one another and then interact in front of and through the children.  Their obliviousness contrast with the various concerns of the adults from racial tension, prostitution, violence, etc contrasts how children can be ignorant while simultaneously absorbing the broader messages of class and race within a subculture.  

Short Story #254 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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