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Dry September as a critique of Racism

Q. Discuss ‘Dry September’ as a critique of Racism.

Ans.  "Dry September," a short story written by William Faulkner in 1931, is a powerful critique of racism that explores the insidious nature of prejudice and its devastating impact on individuals and communities. Set in the racially segregated American South, the story delves into the collective and individual psyche of a society poisoned by racism, and it reveals the destructive consequences of mob mentality, indifference, and silence.

In a small Southern hamlet in the sweltering month of September, tensions and racial stereotypes are prevalent. The main incident involves the claim that a white woman, Miss Minnie Cooper was abused by a Black man named Will Mayes. Motivated by irrational fear and hatred, a mob mentality soon spreads throughout the white population despite the lack of hard evidence. The characters in the novel, who stand in for diverse segments of society, highlight various sides of racism and its effects.

The mob itself is the clearest example of racism in action. The mob is portrayed by Faulkner as a terrifying force motivated by fear, hatred, and insanity. The unrelenting and brutal actions of the mob demonstrate how prejudice can dehumanize its perpetrators and victims. The ferocious mob's pursuit of Mayes exposes the pervasive bigotry that rots throughout the town.

Faulkner draws attention to the significance of false allegations and the weaponization of racism through the character of Miss Minnie Cooper. Her unfounded charge against Mayes and her distortion of the facts highlight the ways in which racism may be exploited to hold onto authority and control. Tragedy results from Miss Minnie's deception, which takes advantage of the racial tensions in the community.

The character of Hawkshaw, a barber who tries to intercede and prevent the mob from carrying out violence, symbolizes the individuals who see the injustice of racism but struggle to confront it. He becomes the story's moral center, attempting to speak out against the mob's actions. Hawkshaw's failure to stop the violence and his eventual resignation reflect the challenging nature of combating racism when the entire society is complicit in it. His character also represents the few who dare to challenge racism, despite the overwhelming opposition.

"Dry September" also examines the racism that is present in the silence and indifference of those who are not members of the mob. The narrative depicts a society where a large number of individuals ignore injustice and let it continue. Faulkner emphasizes the involvement of those who watch in silence, whether through terror or apathy. The town's passive residents add to the poisonous atmosphere of racism, demonstrating how prejudice may flourish in the absence of opposition.

With his use of internal monologues and shifting perspectives, Faulkner's storytelling approach gives readers a glimpse into the characters' heads, exposing their prejudices, inner conflicts, and reasons for acting in certain ways. This in-depth psychological analysis shows how racism is a deeply embedded worldview that impacts people personally in addition to being a societal problem.

The ultimate purpose of "Dry September" is to critique a racist society's collective conscience. The novel by Faulkner portrays a world where racism is tolerated and even encouraged by a poisonous mix of fear, prejudice, and apathy. The story's terrible conclusion—the vicious beating and lynching of an innocent Black man—serves as a sobering warning about the negative effects of unbridled prejudice.

To sum up, "Dry September" is a devastating denunciation of racism in American culture, presenting a moving and horrifying picture of the devastation caused by bigotry, mob mentality, and apathy. Faulkner's dramatic depiction of the character's inner struggle reveals racism's pernicious nature and how it greatly degrades the individual and the community. The narrative is nevertheless a potent and timely statement on the moral obligation to address racism's history and its lasting effects.

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