Short story: “That Evening Sun Go Down”

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“That Evening Sun Go Down” or “That Evening Sun,” by William Faulkner

Published as “That Evening Sun” in the 1931 collection These 13; found online here

6,188 words

Goddamn that was fucked up.

Roughly the same plot as “The Killers” (and, to a lesser extent, Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Waiting”). Like “The Killers,” this story takes the point of view of a neutral, somewhat naive character. It’s told straightforwardly, almost unreflectively, as though the narrator were still a child, even though we know from the opening lines that he or she is much older.

The callousness of most of the characters heightens the sense of cruelty. Nancy isn’t dead at the end, but she’s already given up hope of living. “Won’t no nigger stop him,” she says, implying, I think, that her life depends on having some white person, if only a child, between her and Jubah.

“Can you tell a story?”—An especially cruel moment. Of course she can’t. The attempt at storytelling heightens the suspense, I think, because we want badly for her to succeed, to move the children to sympathy or at least to interest. But the only story Nancy knows at that moment is the one she’s living; she doesn’t have enough distance to tell it properly, and the only ending she knows is the one she’s trying to stave off. Besides, like most children, the kids are just sensitive enough to be unnerved by the tension they sense, but not enough to feel real compassion for someone they consider beneath them. Nancy’s terror and her low social status make her childlike, but that doesn’t compel the white children to accept her as one of their own.