Dry September

by

William Faulkner

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Will Mayes is a black man who lives in Jefferson, works at the ice factory, and has been accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, Minnie Cooper. It is unclear whether the rumor is true, and Mayes seems genuinely confused when confronted with an angry mob of white men who are out to kill him. Henry Hawkshaw knows Will, vouches for his character, and believes he is innocent; there will be no way to find out the truth, however, because the men in the barber shop have already decided on his guilt. As a black man in Jefferson, Mayes’s word is worth next to nothing, and not a single person bothers to ask him about the incident. This character evokes a good deal of sympathy: he is diligently working at the ice factory on a Saturday night, and when the mob of men drags him out to the car, he maintains a deferential manner right up until he is handcuffed and beaten. Even the one man who believes him to be innocent is unable to help him; as Mayes calls to Hawkshaw for help, the barber jumps from the car to escape the imminent violence. Mayes’s implied death is emblematic of the powerlessness of black men in this society, and in fact the rumor of his murder sends such a strong message to the black men of Jefferson that they are completely absent from public areas of town that evening.

Will Mayes Quotes in Dry September

The Dry September quotes below are all either spoken by Will Mayes or refer to Will Mayes. 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

“Except it wasn't Will Mayes,” a barber said. He was a thin, sand-colored man with a mild face, who was shaving a client. “I know Will Mayes. He's a

good nigger. And I know Miss Minnie Cooper, too.”

Related Characters: Henry Hawkshaw (speaker), Will Mayes, Minnie Cooper
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

“It's this durn weather,” another said. “It's enough to make a man do anything.”

Related Characters: Will Mayes, Minnie Cooper
Related Symbols: Heat
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

“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 4 Quotes

“Do you feel strong enough to go out?” they said, their eyes bright too, with a dark glitter. “When you have had time to get over the shock, you must tell us what happened. What he said and did; everything.”

Related Characters: Will Mayes, Minnie Cooper
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

“That's the one: see? The one in pink in the middle.” “Is that her? What did they do with the nigger? Did they?” “Sure. He's all right.” “All right, is he?” “Sure. He went on a little trip.”

Related Characters: Will Mayes, Minnie Cooper
Page Number: 180-181
Explanation and Analysis:

“Do you see?” the friends said. Their voices sounded like long, hovering sighs of hissing exultation. “There's not a Negro on the square. Not one.”

Related Characters: Will Mayes, Minnie Cooper
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Dry September LitChart as a printable PDF.
Dry September PDF

Will Mayes Character Timeline in Dry September

The timeline below shows where the character Will Mayes appears in Dry September. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...the rumor, linking a local white woman, Minnie Cooper, with a black man named Will Mayes. (full context)
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Racism  Theme Icon
Gender and Class Theme Icon
The barber, Henry Hawkshaw, does not believe that Mayes was involved, insisting that he is “a good nigger.” Minnie is an unmarried woman of... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
Hawkshaw continues to defend Mayes’s innocence and suggests that they gather evidence and go to the authorities, but nearly all... (full context)
Part 3
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
...and the other men, who are driving out to the ice factory to find Will Mayes at work. Hawkshaw attempts to explain that since Mayes has not yet fled, that means... (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.... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
In the car, Mayes is sandwiched in the back seat next to Hawkshaw, pulling his arms and legs in... (full context)
Part 4
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Gender and Class Theme Icon
On the same night as Will Mayes’s abduction, Minnie Cooper dresses to go out. She is trembling, feverish and nervous, and her... (full context)
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Racism  Theme Icon
...to notice her and to discuss the rumor, as well as the new rumor that Mayes “went on a little trip.” At the same time, Minnie’s friends note that there are... (full context)