Summary and Analysis: "Dry September" Section V


"Dry September" closes with John McLendon's returning to his "birdcage" home at midnight and brutally confronting his wife. Hearing his question, "Haven't I told you about sitting up like this, waiting to see when I come in?" we wonder where and what he must have been doing the other times, and how often his wife must endure his abusive behavior. The sadism that was revealed in his slashing out at Will continues in his sadistic treatment of his wife when he "half struck, half flung her across the chair."

Mrs. McLendon's seemingly passive acceptance of her husband's abuse increases our sympathy for her. By ending the story with such a disturbing view of her as a victim, Faulkner reiterates the victimization of many of his characters, most especially Will. Our final glimpse of McLendon is not of the heroic American decorated for valor, but of a mean, vicious, and violently sadistic bigot. Ironically, he kills a man to protect the so-called sanctity of Southern white women, yet he treats his own wife as a piece of property, to do with as he pleases. The White Goddess concept is an abstract ideal, and that is all it is — an ideal that fails miserably in real life.