The alienation occurs with Joe Christmas. He is a stranger that comes into the town ofJefferson with a unkonwn past. Prior to his arrival, he went under the name of LucasBurch. Whne Joe Christmas arrives at Jefferson, he alienates himeself from almosteverybody for about 2 years.
His past has taught him to do so, with all the bad things thathas hapened to him. We get extended interior monologues from Christmas, and the story of his pastoccupies a third or more of the book. Despite the amount of information provided,Christmas remains hard to comprehend. It isn’t that he is not what he seems to be. Rather,he “seems” to be many things, but the reader can never be quite certain which of these arereal.
Christmas’ tragedy is that he does not know himself what he is. He seems certainthat he is part “nigger” but there is no reliable evidence that this is true. Certainly, he lookswhite. Christmas moves back and forth between white society and black society.
Everytime he does so, he reveals himself as an outsider. In white society he exposes his own”nigger” blood; in black society he portrays himself as white. When he does so, he expectsa violent reaction from which he has provoked. Being both black and white he cannot trulybe a part of either society.
Nor can he simply deny this dichotomy. Rather, as quoted onpage 69, “his awareness of this dichotomy makes him take up the role of antagonist in allsituations”. He is born into a social system which has defined the categories of white andblack, and has established rituals for dealing with any behavior by either, which depicts animage to the reader of his alienation and difference he is from the rest of the population inJefferson. . Joe believes in these categories and rituals. When a white prostitute is notoutraged by his Negro blood, he beats her.
He expects her to reject him. Rather her”indifference challenges the validity of the premise on which he has built his whole life”page 71. These social categories and rituals dominate the novel. A townsman quicklyrecognizes that Christmas is “unique among the characters in that he is the only one whoinsists on unifying the forces rather than accepting, indeed depending upon, theirseparation” on page 13. His attempts to unify the social and moral categories upon whichthe society of Jefferson is built earn him the violent rejection by that society, black andwhite which leaved him with no place to go. Thus Christmas is murdered by a societybecause his existence challenges its very foundations.