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”That Evening Sun” by William Faulkner

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     “That Evening Sun” is a remarkable short story that communicates a grim picture of terror and vengeance witnessed by children. The story opens with the narrator, Quentin, reminiscing how his hometown, Jefferson, has changed. He then tells the frightening story of his youth about the tribulations of an African-American laundrywoman named Nancy, a hired help in their family 15 years ago. Quentin establishes Nancy’s graceful agility, implying early on that Nancy is the type who is quite an attraction both for white and African-American men. This, in fact, is where her problem lies. Like many attractive African-American women in her time, Nancy is forced to engage in prostitution. We learn that she gets ‘visits’ from white men.

When she gets pregnant, her common-law husband Jesus suspects that the baby’s father is indeed a white man. Furious, Jesus warns to kill her. The story revolves around Nancy’s fear of death and her attempts to evade it, going to the dangerous and selfish extent of inviting the children to her cabin, where she and Jesus live. The story closes with Nancy revealing that Jesus left a warning for her by leaving a bloody pig bone for her to discover; she strongly believes her days are numbered. When the group of children, along with their father, finally leaves, Nancy appears to have accepted her fate by not barring the door of her cabin.  This story describes how African-Americans were treated in Jefferson in the past. Nancy’s employers seem to be unaffected by her fears, concerned only with her employment in their household and what she can do for them. The riveting scenes where the children accompany her despite the danger only prove the seeming disbelief the parents have of her fears. A great read, this story reverberates with suspense, fear and outrage.


Faulkner, W.S. (1950). Collected Stories of William Faulkner.  New York: Random House

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