Summary and Analysis: "Dry September"
A rapid and effective transition from the tenseness of the barbershop to the outwardly peaceful life of Miss Minnie begins this section, which recounts her early social exploits and emphasizes the emptiness of her current life. Daily, she follows a purposeless and repetitive schedule of swinging on her front porch until noon, then shopping downtown in the afternoon. The "lace-trimmed boudoir cap" she wears while swinging symbolizes her pent-up sexual frustration: That she wears in public an article of clothing meant to be worn in private demonstrates her desperation to be noticed. Her life seems to be one of uselessness, perhaps due to her realization that she possesses a "faintly haggard manner" and a "bright, haggard look."
Faulkner recounts Miss Minnie's school years to stress the disparity between her youth and her present age. The importance of how she was received during her school days compared to how she is treated as a middle-aged adult cannot be overemphasized: The decline in her social popularity is a direct cause of her sexual inhibition, which is one reason for her accusing Will Mayes of raping her. When young, Miss Minnie's attractiveness "enabled her for a time to ride upon the crest of the town's social life." Growing up, her friends were unaware of her family's lower social standing in Jefferson, but they became conscious of social class as they aged and recognized that Miss Minnie was their inferior.
Although her contemporaries married, Miss Minnie did not — but not because she didn't want to. Instead, she became known as "aunty," and it wasn't until she began dating the bank cashier that she fretted about this label, asking her acquaintances to call her "cousin." Similar to the town's reaction to "poor Emily" in "A Rose for Emily," the town castigated "poor Minnie" for having an adulterous affair with the cashier, who eventually moves away.
The narration now shifts to the present time, and we see the marked change in Miss Minnie's behavior. It has been 12 years since the town relegated her to an adulteress. She now secretly sips whiskey, and her life has "a quality of furious unreality," a notable description when we remember how often McLendon is described as "furious." We know that Miss Minnie has lost her sexual appeal because when she walks downtown, the "sitting and lounging men [do] not even follow her with their eyes any more."
Much of the information supplied in this section supports the contention that Miss Minnie reports fictitious sexual encounters to reawaken the town's interest in her sexuality and to convince herself that she is attractive and desirable. Apparently, she partly accomplishes this goal; in Section IV, after reporting the sexual attack, she again becomes the center of attention, and people once again look at her as a sexual woman: "Even the young men lounging in the doorway tipped their hats and followed with their eyes the motion of her hips and legs when she passed." If it were Miss Minnie's intent to regain attention for herself by reporting a sexual assault, she achieves her purpose-at the expense of Will Mayes' life.