John McLendon’s gun symbolizes the extreme violence behind the racism in Jefferson, and the imbalance of power among black and white men. McLendon’s gun is seen peeking out of his waistband as he leaves the barber shop with the mob of angry men, foreshadowing that evening’s violence. He makes no real effort to hide his weapon in public: as a white man, McLendon does not fear the local authorities and feels confident in his right to employ violence without consequence. The gun also serves as a warning to any who would challenge his authority. His experience in the military is also a reminder that for white men during this time period, violence is a viable form of upward social mobility. McLendon uses the gun to extract Will Mayes from his job at the ice factory, interrupting his work shift and introducing the threat of violence. The gun makes a final appearance at the end of the story, as McLendon takes it out and lays it on his bedside table at home, after the murder of Will Mayes. In this intimate, private scene as McLendon disrobes and prepares for bed, the gun stands out as a harsh reminder of the omnipresence of violence in this society.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Gun appears in Dry September. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.