Dry September

by

William Faulkner

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Dry September can help.

Heat Symbol Analysis

Heat  Symbol Icon

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

The Dry September quotes below all refer to the symbol of Heat . 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

“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:
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:
Get the entire Dry September LitChart as a printable PDF.
Dry September PDF

Heat Symbol Timeline in Dry September

The timeline below shows where the symbol Heat 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
...for sixty-two days, and a rumor has spread “through the bloody September twilight … like fire in dry grass .” Men gathered in a barber shop in—the air stale—discuss the rumor, linking a local... (full context)
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Racism  Theme Icon
Gender and Class Theme Icon
...he’d privilege a black man’s word over a white woman’s. Another client suggests that the “weather [is] enough to make a man do anything”—even to an unmarried older woman like Minnie. (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... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
...keep from touching anyone. As they speed out of town and towards an old abandoned kiln, Mayes continues to ask for an explanation and for help, while Hawkshaw begins to feel... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
...rolling into the ditch along the side of the road, choking and retching in the dry grass . He gets up and limps along the road back towards town. As he is... (full context)
Part 4
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Gender and Class Theme Icon
...everything.” Minnie says nothing and they all go out to the square, under the oppressive heat of the evening. (full context)
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...The ice works briefly but does not stay fresh and cold for long in this heat, and as soon as the ice begins to melt, Minnie’s fit of laughter returns. (full context)
Part 5
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Gender and Class Theme Icon
...staying up and waiting for him. She denies waiting up for him, noting that the heat kept her awake, but McLendon doesn’t believe her and grabs her shoulder, hurting her. He... (full context)
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
...use his clothes to re-dry himself. He stands at the dusty screen, panting in the heat. The night is silent, “stricken beneath the cold moon and lidless stars.” (full context)