In the novel Light in August, by William Faulkner, Joe Christmas" lack of identity helps to shape his life. His early childhood experiences with women help to mold him into a man without a solid understanding of relationships. He has no firm belief in religion, which leaves him to make difficult decisions without any guidance from a set of moral codes. Joe Christmas" southern surroundings, which draw clear lines between the black and white communities, leave him feeling like an interloper. He struggles to feel comfortable with either the black or white community. Joe Christmas" racial identity and surroundings, relationships with women, and religion affect his actions and behavior throughout his life. .
As an orphaned child, Joe Christmas did not have a strong sense of who he was and knows nothing of his parents or background. He lives in a white orphanage, where the other children tease him and call him names. The matron decides to place him with a white family after she learns he could be part black. With his light skin, he would "look just like a pea in a pan full of coffee beans"(130), in a black orphanage. Joe is betrayed by his own background and does not feel as if belongs in the black or white community. "There is something rootless about him, as though no town nor city [is] his, no street, no walls, no square of earth his home."(31) As he stumbles throughout he black neighborhood, he doesn't want to be there and begins to run. As he is leaving a black man addresses Joe as a white man. When the white community learns Joe may be part black, they reject him. They "always thought there is something funny about that fellow." (99) .
Joe Christmas is never accepted by either communities. .
Joe Christmas" life with his adoptive family helps to shape him into the man he would become. When Joe arrives at the McEachern house"he has never worked nor feared God. He knows less about God than about work.