Character Sketch of John McLendon in Dry September

John McLendon, the war hero, is the main catalytic agent in the narrative. The very description of his physique and his posture serves to present him as a poster boy, the white male protector of the Southern belle. His commandeering skills help him to quickly mobilize the white folk into a group with himself as their self-appointed leader. Leading from the front like he did in France, during the war time, he seizes upon the present opportunity to teach the Negro a lesson. Without specifying what exactly he is going to do to Will Mayes, he engineers a lynch mob that would not ‘let a black son rape a white woman on the streets of Jefferson”, or “let the black sons get away with it until one does it’. More particularly, his naming of the charge against Will Mayes as “rape”, also reminds the readers of the white man’s fears of miscegenation and interracial intimacies.

Ultimately, in the final section, we find him manhandling his wife; an act which is in contradiction to his professed aim of protecting the white women. The farce of protecting white women is, thus, exposed in his treatment of his wife whom he physically abuses even without any provocation. The last image of him as a ‘panting’ animal that ‘hunted furiously’, then, also exposes the fragility of the normative masculinity that is cracking beneath its surface.

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