The antisocial escape of William Faulkner's tragic mulattoes
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With the characters of Charles Bon in Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and Joe Christmas in Light in August (1932), William Faulkner constructs two masculine versions of the traditionally female tragic mulatto narrative concerning the plight of a mixed-race individual. Ostensibly, the philandering Charles Bon and the violent Joe Christmas exemplify the “strong and silent” ultra-masculine stereotype and thus have no connection with the vulnerable and sensitive tragic mulatto female. However, Bon and Christmas are connected to this usually female archetype because both men are troubled by the internal conflict of identity that is central to the tragic mulatto myth. The men likewise fear the tragic mulatto’s fates of societal isolation and loneliness. Yet unlike the passive female who exercises little to no agency in preventing her tragic fate, Bon and Joe actively resist their prescribed fates through the manifestation of qualities indicative of antisocial personality disorder. In this thesis, I will explore the factors that lead to the development of antisocial qualities in these two characters, how the men utilize these qualities as methods of combating the confinements of the tragic mulatto myth, and how the two characters’ attempts to escape their stereotypical fates ultimately prove to be futile.