Interracial Intimacy in Dry September

In cases involving miscegenation the ‘white goddess’ concept was used as a deterrent against interracial carnal desire. For a racist mind, it was hard to imagine coloured men as objects of a white woman’s erotic desires. That this myth informs their defense is revealing given that the various moments of such utterances almost become a refrain in the story.

“Do you accuse a white woman of lying?”

“Won’t you take a white woman’s word before a nigger’s?”

This implies that in any narrative of interracial intimacy between black man and white woman, it was assumed that it was the black man who willfully forced himself upon the white woman because the latter would never consent to such possibilities of intimate encounters. By the same stroke, it also meant that there was therefore no need to look for “facts” because “What the hell difference does it make?” when a white woman could not be accused of lying which automatically shifted the onus of the lying/offence onto the black man.

Further, a focus on the ways in which the men respond to the rumor and to McLendon’s exhortations prove that ‘these men are as much prisoners of the old traditions as is Minnie Cooper’ (Volpe 64). McLendon’s extreme disregard for corroborative evidence and the refusal to acknowledge a willful design in the repetitive pattern in Minnie’s accusations is also an indication that suggests that the punitive action that is so vigorously sought for is more to preempt any future possibility of any form of contact between the white woman and the “Negroes” than to deliver ‘justice’ to the ostensibly sexually violated woman.

Conclusively, in his short story, “Dry September”, Faulkner presents a critique of race and racism through the trope of ambiguity and rumor. By dramatizing the process and the aftereffects of mob lynching within the framework of race and gender, he lays bare its unwarranted ramifications for all those involved as well as the threat of miscegenation and black man’s sexuality.

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