Summary and Analysis: "Dry September" Section IV


It is Saturday night, and Miss Minnie is preparing to go downtown with her friends, who are anxious to see the effects, if any, of the rape on her. Their baiting her with questions demonstrates that they are more interested in juicy, sensational gossip than with genuine concern and affection for her: "When you have had time to get over the shock, you must tell us what happened. What he said and did, everything." She has aroused the interest of the curiosity seekers, but this section reemphasizes her many frustrations despite having regained all kinds of attention.

As Miss Minnie and her friends walk downtown, young people observe her with sexual curiosity. The image of her friends talking in voices that sound like "long, hovering sighs of hissing exultation" recalls the snake-like lust of Will's killers and suggests that these "friends" are little better than McLendon and his gang.

Knowledge of Will's disappearance has become widespread, for Miss Minnie's friends note, "There's not a Negro on the square. Not one." Here, Faulkner is commenting on a unique Southern phenomenon: Saturday is traditionally the day that many Southern blacks spend in town. But when something violent occurs, such as a rape or a murder, the entire black community reacts by disappearing, or, in Southern idiom, by becoming invisible.

The scene in the theater pits Miss Minnie against the unreality of the movie's fantasy world, where life "began to unfold, beautiful and passionate and sad." Her false sexuality is juxtaposed against the many pairs of young lovers, who enter the theater "scented and sibilant," an image that again emphasizes the snake-like quality of Jefferson's citizens. The movie represents an escape from life's burdens, but, instead, Miss Minnie begins to laugh hysterically, implying that either she recognizes finally the futility of reclaiming a sexual identity or she might very well be suffering a nervous collapse, or both.

The section ends with the friends undressing Miss Minnie and perversely examining her hair for signs of gray. Faulkner's description of the friends' eyes as "darkly aglitter, secret and passionate," suggests that Miss Minnie is not the only Southern woman who is sexually repressed. Still wondering if the rape truly occurred, the women are not convinced of Miss Minnie's accusations, but Will Mayes has had to pay for these charges with his life.