Dry September


William Faulkner

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John McLendon Character Analysis

John McLendon is described as having commanded troops in France and is considered a war hero and man of action around Jefferson. There is no mention of his current occupation, and it appears that it does not matter much, as he is entirely defined by his wartime heroism. He lives in Jefferson with his wife, and while he is publicly viewed as a man of valor, within the walls of his home, McLendon is verbally and physically abusive with his wife, embodying the hypocrisy at the center of “Dry September.” McLendon bursts into the barber shop at the beginning of the story in order to recruit men to help him retaliate against Will Mayes for what he may or may not have done to Minnie Cooper. While some of the other men, including Henry Hawkshaw, suggest that they should gather facts and go to the authorities, McLendon questions their reputations as white men tasked with upholding the status quo. He gathers a mob of angry men and, with the gun he has tucked in his waistband, abducts Mayes and brings him to a secluded area to kill him.

John McLendon Quotes in Dry September

The Dry September quotes below are all either spoken by John McLendon or refer to John McLendon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Dry September published in 2015.
Part 1 Quotes

“Well,” he said, “are you going to sit there and let a black son rape a white woman on the streets of Jefferson?”

Related Characters: John McLendon (speaker), Will Mayes, Minnie Cooper
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3 Quotes

“Kill him, kill the black son!” the voice murmured. They dragged the Negro to the car. The barber had waited beside the car. He could feel himself sweating and he knew he was going to be sick at the stomach. “What is it, captains?” the Negro said. “I ain't done nothing. ‘Fore God, Mr John.” Someone produced handcuffs.

Related Characters: Will Mayes (speaker), John McLendon
Related Symbols: Ice, Handcuffs
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

“Let me out, John,” he said. “Jump out, nigger-lover,” McLendon said without turning his head.

Related Characters: Henry Hawkshaw (speaker), John McLendon (speaker), Will Mayes
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5 Quotes

“Haven't I told you about sitting up like this, waiting to see when I come in?” “John,” she said. She laid the magazine down. Poised on the balls of his feet, he glared at her with his hot eyes, his sweating face. “Didn't I tell you?” He went toward her. She looked up then. He caught her shoulder. She stood passive, looking at him. “Don't, John. I couldn't sleep... The heat; something. Please, John. You're hurting me.”

Related Characters: John McLendon (speaker), McLendon’s Wife (speaker)
Related Symbols: Heat
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dry September PDF

John McLendon Character Timeline in Dry September

The timeline below shows where the character John McLendon appears in Dry September. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
Racism  Theme Icon
...tell him to “go back North” (despite Hawkshaw having been born in this town). John McLendon, a decorated war hero, then enters the barber shop, immediately asking the patrons, “are you... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Racism  Theme Icon
McLendon invites the men to join him in an as-yet unspecified plan of action, even as... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
...and go to the authorities, but nearly all of the men choose to leave with McLendon. As they go, McLendon’s gun peeks out from his waistband. Hawkshaw suddenly decides to join... (full context)
Part 3
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
As the day “die[s] in a pall of dust,” Henry Hawkshaw catches up to John McLendon and the other men, who are driving out to the ice factory to find Will... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
Racism  Theme Icon
Mayes, who works as the night watchman, comes out of the ice factory at McLendon’s insistence. Under the “wan hemorrhage of the moon,” the men rush at him, then handcuff... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
...and for help, while Hawkshaw begins to feel sick and asks to stop the car. McLendon refuses to do so, telling Hawkshaw that he will need to jump and calling him,... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
...up and limps along the road back towards town. As he is walking, he sees McLendon’s car pass again in the other direction, holding only four men and no one on... (full context)
Part 5
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Gender and Class Theme Icon
John McLendon returns to his neat, new home at around midnight, and upon entering, notices that his... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
Walking into the screened porch he uses as a bedroom, McLendon mops the sweat off of himself, undresses and takes his gun from his waistband and... (full context)