That Evening Sun

by

William Faulkner

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Nancy is the Compson’s black servant who works for the family while their regular servant, Dilsey, is sick. Due to her race and position in society, Nancy is very poor and is forced to work as a prostitute alongside serving the Compson’s. Nancy has become terrified that her husband Jesusis waiting in the ditch outside her house and is planning to kill her. Nancy, who has been violently beaten by a white man named Mr. Stovallearlier in the story, and who is pregnant with a white man’s child because of her prostitution, feels that there is nothing she can do to protect herself against Jesus. Her fear becomes more and more desperate as the story progresses. Although Nancy’s situation is exacerbated by her social circumstances (the fact that she is not protected by law and her lack of status in society) Nancy comes to believe that her situation is caused by something inherent in herself and that she is doomed. Nancy verbalizes this fear when she tells Mr. Compson that what’s coming to her is “hers” and that it belongs to her. She also describes herself as “hellborn,” demonstrating that Nancy views herself as damned. The extent of Nancy’s fear is evident in that her actions become more and more desperate throughout the story, to the point where she tries to use the Compson children as protection from Jesus. Nancy is, overall, a tragic figure who is a victim of circumstances in the place and period in which she has been born.

Nancy Quotes in That Evening Sun

The That Evening Sun quotes below are all either spoken by Nancy or refer to Nancy . 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:
Racism and Segregation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of That Evening Sun published in 1995.
That Evening Sun Quotes

And then about half the time we’d have to go down the lane to Nancy’s cabin and tell her to come on and cook breakfast. We would stop at the ditch, because father told us not to have anything to do with Jesus – he was a short, black man with a razor scar down his face – and we would throw rocks at Nancy’s house until she came to the door, leaning her head around it without any clothes on.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy , Caddy Compson, Jason Compson, Jesus, Dilsey
Related Symbols: The Ditch
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:

So we thought it was whiskey until that day they arrested her again and were taking her to jail and they passed Mr. Stovall. He was a cashier in the bank and a deacon in the Baptist church, and Nancy began to say: “When you going to pay me, white man?” […] Mr. Stovall knocked her down but she kept on saying, “When you going to pay me, white man?” […] until Mr. Stovall kicked her in the mouth with his heel and the marshal caught Mr. Stovall back, and Nancy lying in the street, laughing. She turned her head and spat out some blood and teeth and said, “It’s been three times since he paid me a cent.”

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy (speaker), Mr. Stovall
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

She didn’t shut up until almost daylight, when the jailor began to hear a bumping and scraping upstairs and he went up there and found Nancy hanging from the window bar. He said that it was cocaine and not whisky, because no nigger would try to commit suicide unless he was full of cocaine, because a nigger full of cocaine wasn't a nigger any longer. The jailer cut her down and revived her; then he beat her, whipped her. She had hung herself with her dress […] So the jailer heard the noise and ran up there and found Nancy hanging from the window, stark naked, her belly already swelling out a little, like a little balloon.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

When Dilsey was sick in her cabin and Nancy was cooking for us, we could see her apron swelling out; that was before father told Jesus to stay away from the house. Jesus was in the kitchen, sitting behind the stove, with his razor scar on his black face like a piece of dirty string. He said it was a watermelon that Nancy had under her dress.

“It never come off of your vine, though,” Nancy said.

“Off of what vine?” Caddy said.

“I can cut down the vine it did come off of,” Jesus said.

“What makes you want to talk like that before these chillen,” Nancy said […]

“I can’t hang around white man's kitchen,” Jesus said. “But white man can hang around mine.”

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy (speaker), Caddy Compson (speaker), Jesus (speaker), Mr. Compson, Dilsey
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

“Mother wants to know if you are through,” I said.

“Yes,” Nancy said. She looked at me. “I done finished.” She looked at me.

“What is it?” I said. “What is it?”

“I aint nothing but a nigger,” Nancy said. “It aint none of my fault.”

She looked at me, sitting in the chair before the cold stove, the sailor hat on her head. I went back to the library. It was the cold stove and all, when you think of a kitchen being warm and busy and cheerful. And with the cold stove and the dishes all put away, and nobody wanting to eat at that hour.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy (speaker), Mrs. Compson
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

“You'll leave me alone, to take Nancy home?” mother said. “Is her safety more precious to you than mine!”

“I won’t be long," father said.

“You'll leave these children unprotected, with that Negro about?”

“I'm going too," Caddy said. “Let me go, Father.”

“What would he do with them, if he were unfortunate enough to have them?" father said.

“I want to go, too,” Jason said.

“Jason!” mother said. She was speaking to father. You could tell that by the way she said the name. Like she believed that all day father had been trying to think of doing the thing she wouldn't like the most and that she knew all the time that after a while he would think of it.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Caddy Compson (speaker), Jason Compson (speaker), Mr. Compson (speaker), Mrs. Compson (speaker), Nancy , Jesus
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

“Well, he's gone now,” father said.

“There's nothing for you to be afraid of now. And if you'd just let white men alone.”

“Let what white men alone?” Caddy said. “How let them alone?”

“He aint gone nowhere," Nancy said. "I can feel him. I can feel him now, in this lane. He hearing us talk, every word, hid somewhere, waiting. I aint seen him, and I aint going to see him again but once more, with that razor in his mouth. That razor on that string down his back, inside his shirt. And then I aint going to be even surprised.”

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy (speaker), Caddy Compson (speaker), Mr. Compson (speaker), Jason Compson, Jesus
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

The floor was cold. Our toes curled away from it while we listened to the sound. It was like singing and it wasn't like singing like the sounds that Negroes make. Then it stopped and we heard father going down the back stairs, and we went to the head of the stairs. Then the sound began again, in the stairway, not loud, and we could see Nancy's eyes halfway up the stairs, against the wall. They looked like cat's eyes do, like a big cat against the wall, watching us.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy , Caddy Compson, Jesus
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:

Nancy whispered something. It was oh or no, I don’t know which. Like nobody had made it, like it came from nowhere and went nowhere, until it was like Nancy was not there at all; that I had looked so hard at her eyes on the stairs that they had got printed on my eyeballs, like the sun does when you have closed your eyes and there is no sun. “Jesus,” Nancy whispered. “Jesus.” “Was it Jesus?” Caddy said. “Did he try to come into the kitchen?” “Jesus” Nancy said. Like this: Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus, until the sound went out like a match or a candle does.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy (speaker), Caddy Compson (speaker), Jesus
Related Symbols: Darkness
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:

“Hush,” Nancy said. She was talking loud when we crossed the ditch and stooped through the fence where she used to stoop through with the clothes on her head. Then we came to her house. We were going fast then. She opened the door. The smell of the house was like the lamp and the smell of Nancy was like the wick, like they were waiting for one another to begin to smell. She lit the lamp and closed the door and put the bar up. Then she quit talking loud, looking at us […] There was something about Nancy's house; something you could smell besides Nancy and the house. Jason smelled it, even. “I don't want to stay here,” he said.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy (speaker), Jason Compson (speaker), Caddy Compson, Jesus
Related Symbols: The Ditch
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:

She came and sat in a chair before the hearth. There was a little fire there. Nancy built it up, when it was already hot inside. She built a good blaze. She told a story. She talked like her eyes looked, like her eyes watching us and her voice talking to us did not belong to her. Like she was, living somewhere else, waiting somewhere else. She was outside the cabin. Her voice was inside and the shape of her, the Nancy that could stoop under a barbed wire fence with a bundle of clothes balanced on her head as though without weight, like a balloon, was there. But that was all.

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Nancy , Caddy Compson, Jason Compson, Jesus
Related Symbols: Darkness
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:

We left her sitting before the fire. “Come and put the bar up,” father said. But she didn't move. She didn't look at us again, sitting quietly there between the lamp and the fire. From some distance down the lane we could look back and see her through the open door. “What, Father?” Caddy said. “What’s going to happen?” “Nothing,” father said. Jason was on father's back, so Jason was the tallest of all of us. We went down into the ditch. I looked at it, quiet. I couldn't see much where the moonlight and the shadows tangled. “If Jesus is hid here, he can see us, cant he?” Caddy said. “He's not there,” father said. “He went away a long time ago.”

Related Characters: Quentin Compson (speaker), Caddy Compson (speaker), Mr. Compson (speaker), Nancy , Jason Compson, Jesus
Related Symbols: The Ditch, Darkness
Page Number: 309
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nancy Character Timeline in That Evening Sun

The timeline below shows where the character Nancy appears in That Evening Sun. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
That Evening Sun
Racism and Segregation Theme Icon
Naivety, Ignorance, and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Quentin describes how Nancy, a black woman who sometimes worked for the Compsons, would wear her sailor hat on... (full context)
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...washer women’s husbands would help their wives by fetching the clothes for them, but Jesus, Nancy’s husband, never did—“even before” Mr. Compson, Quentin’s father, told Jesus to stay away from the... (full context)
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Quentin complains that Nancy was not a very reliable servant and describes how he, Caddy, and Jason would often... (full context)
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Quentin and his family think that Nancy is a drunk, and that is why she is late for work. Later they hear... (full context)
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In jail Nancy protests all night, “singing and yelling,” and people stop outside to listen and laugh at... (full context)
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Quentin notes that he, Caddy, and Jason also notice Nancy’s “apron swelling out” when she is cooking for them because Dilsey is sick. This is... (full context)
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Dilsey stays sick for a long time, so Nancy continues to cook for the family, and Mr. Compson tells Jesus to stay away from... (full context)
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Unnerved by Nancy’s manner and the contrast between the “warm, busy, cheerful” way the kitchen usually feels and... (full context)
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Mr. Compson returns and says that he is going to walk Nancy home because Nancy thinks that Jesus has come back to town. Mrs. Compson asks if... (full context)
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On the walk home, Nancy says that she will be alright if she can just get “through the lane,” which... (full context)
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While the children argue, Mr. Compson tries to reassure Nancy that Jesus is gone. Nancy replies that Jesus told her that “she done woke up... (full context)
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Dilsey is still sick, so the family begin to walk Nancy home every night after she has finished her work. Eventually Mrs. Compson becomes annoyed that... (full context)
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The children hear their father going down the back stairs and then hear Nancy’s sound again “in the stairway.” They see that she is standing against the wall in... (full context)
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Quentin and Caddy lie in the dark room with Nancy. Caddy keeps asking Nancy questions about what made her afraid and what she saw in... (full context)
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Dilsey gets well and comes to cook for the Compsons again, but Nancy still comes into the kitchen after it gets dark. Dilsey asks Nancy how she knows... (full context)
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Nancy tries to drink the coffee that Dilsey has made for her, but she cannot swallow... (full context)
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Nancy seems to have an idea suddenly, and her eyes “move fast, like she is afraid”... (full context)
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Caddy tells Nancy what Mr. Compson has said and asks what Nancy has done to make Jesus mad.... (full context)
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The children set off down the lane with Nancy. The lane is dark, and Caddy teases Jason about being scared. Caddy asks Nancy why... (full context)
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Quentin doesn’t like the smell in Nancy’s house, which is like a lamp and Nancy’s smell like the wick; “they [are] waiting... (full context)
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Nancy stands in front of the door and looks at the children as if she is... (full context)
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Nancy’s story is about a queen who is trying to get across the ditch outside her... (full context)
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Nancy gets the popper out from under the bed, but it is broken. Jason begins to... (full context)
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As Nancy is taking the popcorn out of the fire, insisting that it will still be good... (full context)
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Mr. Compson enters the cabin and, again, tells Nancy to go and stay with Aunt Rachel. He says that he has checked the ditch... (full context)
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Giving up, Mr. Compson tells Nancy to lock her door and put out the lamp, but Nancy says she is scared... (full context)
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The children leave with Mr. Compson. Nancy remains sitting by the fire with the door of her cabin open and does not... (full context)
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...and a little one.” They come out of the ditch and can no longer see Nancy through the open door, but they can hear her making the sound which is “like... (full context)