That Evening Sun

by

William Faulkner

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Darkness Symbol Icon

Darkness in “That Evening Sun” represents Nancy’s fear and the unspoken horror of death that underlies events in the story. Nancy is terrified of the dark, particularly the dark lane outside her cabin, where she believes her husband Jesus is lying in wait to murder her. Throughout the story, Nancy is desperately trying to put off the moment that she feels is inevitable (the moment that Jesus will attack her) and this desperation links into the story’s title; Nancy trying to postpone her own death is like trying to stop the sun going down and leaving the world in darkness.

Nancy’s certainty that she is going to killed is underscored by Faulkner’s use of language pertaining to death and darkness throughout the story. When Nancy is lying in the dark in the Compson children’s bedroom, she makes a sound which, Quentin says, seems like “it went out like a match.” This reflects the hopelessness of Nancy’s life—the fact that she has only existed to be a servant and a prostitute and then to be murdered. Nancy also thinks she is damned or “hellborn”; that is, she believes that even after she is killed she will find no salvation or “light” in the Christian sense, despite the fact that “Jesus” is coming for her. When the children are in Nancy’s cabin, Quentin says that though her form is inside, but it is like some part of her is outside, in the darkness. When Quentin peers into the dark ditch after they have walked Nancy home, he notes that he cannot see clearly in the “shadows” there. This suggests that, although Mr. Compson has assured Nancy that Jesus is not in the ditch, Mr. Compson also has little idea, and does not really want to know, what is lurking in the dark in Jefferson.

Darkness Quotes in That Evening Sun

The That Evening Sun quotes below all refer to the symbol of Darkness. 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

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:

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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That Evening Sun PDF

Darkness Symbol Timeline in That Evening Sun

The timeline below shows where the symbol Darkness 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
Fear and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...but Quentin says that Jesus has left town. Jason thinks Nancy is “scared of the dark” and doesn’t want to walk home. Caddy tells Jason that he is afraid of the... (full context)
Racism and Segregation Theme Icon
Fear and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...she will be alright if she can just get “through the lane,” which is the darkest part of the walk. Mr. Compson asks Nancy if she can stay with Aunt Rachel,... (full context)
Racism and Segregation Theme Icon
Fear and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...again “in the stairway.” They see that she is standing against the wall in the dark, her eyes appearing catlike. Nancy stops making the sound when the children go down and... (full context)
Racism and Segregation Theme Icon
Fear and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Quentin and Caddy lie in the dark room with Nancy. Caddy keeps asking Nancy questions about what made her afraid and what... (full context)
Racism and Segregation Theme Icon
Fear and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...cook for the Compsons again, but Nancy still comes into the kitchen after it gets dark. Dilsey asks Nancy how she knows that Jesus has come back. Jason, who is also... (full context)
Racism and Segregation Theme Icon
Fear and Vulnerability Theme Icon
The children set off down the lane with Nancy. The lane is dark, and Caddy teases Jason about being scared. Caddy asks Nancy why she is “talking so... (full context)
Racism and Segregation Theme Icon
Naivety, Ignorance, and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Fear and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...out the lamp, but Nancy says she is scared for “it to happen in the dark.” Mr. Compson moves to take the children home and Nancy says that she has her... (full context)