Dry September


William Faulkner

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Ice Symbol Analysis

Ice Symbol Icon

To counterbalance the images of heat and combustion in the story, ice symbolizes relief from social oppression. However, like ice, this relief is often brief and fleeting; just as ice is a transient physical state that melts in the heat, Minnie and Will Mayes can only find momentary relief from the burning anger and judgement of the white men around them. For instance, as Minnie Cooper breaks down in a fit of uncontrollable laughter in the picture house, her friends fan her and gather “ice for her temples,” remedies that immediately calm her: “While the ice was fresh and cold she stopped laughing and lay still for a time,” briefly bringing her out of the stagnant atmosphere of Jefferson. Once the ice pack melts, however, Minnie continues to break down. Meanwhile, the mob of men notably comes to find Mayes at his workplace in an ice factory, a symbol of refuge from the racial heat of the town. Inside the ice factory, Mayes is just another employee, free to work hard to earn his pay. This cool and safe interior space is then juxtaposed with the “abandoned brick kiln,” a space of intense heat and dryness, where Jefferson’s racial hatred boils over and brings Mayes to his violent end.

Ice Quotes in Dry September

The Dry September quotes below all refer to the symbol of Ice. 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 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:
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Dry September PDF

Ice Symbol Timeline in Dry September

The timeline below shows where the symbol Ice appears in Dry September. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 3
Vigilante Justice Theme Icon
...catches up to John McLendon 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... (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... (full context)
Part 4
Rumor, Reputation, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Minnie’s friends bring her home in a taxi, fan her, rub ice on her to calm her down, and call the doctor. The ice works briefly but... (full context)