Faulkner uses metaphors of heat and combustion to convey the irrationality of the mob mentality among the white men in “Dry September.” The town has experienced sixty-two days of drought, and the weather becomes an excuse for inappropriate behavior: “It's this durn weather […] It's enough to make a man do anything,” one man at the barbershop says in reference to why someone would sexually assault the unmarried, thirty-something Minnie Cooper. It’s clear that the weather is having a similar effect on the men in the barber shop themselves; the “stale” air in the shop seems to heat up throughout the scene, as one man’s shirt is “sweat-stained” and another draws “his sleeve across his sweating face.” As the mob runs out of the barber shop and into a sort of battle, the air has “a metallic taste at the base of the tongue,” foreshadowing the death of Will Mayes.
In the final section of the story, McLendon is unable to control his body’s response to the heat, which reiterates the connection between the weather and irrational behavior. After returning home from assaulting and likely murdering Mayes, McLendon mops the sweat from his head and shoulders with his shirt, only to find that he is sweating again. He “wiped his body again, and, with his body pressed against the dusty screen, he stood panting.” This full-body response to the events of the evening strongly suggests that the men’s actions have not brought justice to Jefferson and have only worsened the racial divide in the town, further establishing heat as a symbol of irrational violence.
Heat Quotes in Dry September
“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.”