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Friday, July 13, 2012

Faulkner’s Rebellions

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William Faulkners short stories “Barn Burning” and “A Rose for Emily” are keys to understanding what Faulkner’s feelings about the confines of society. Both are stories of a person going against the traditional norms of society to ensure that they are comfortable in life. William Faulkner uses a similar theme in both A Rose for Emily as well as Barn Burning to portray the idea that rebelling against traditional ways may be the only way to become independent.


In “A Rose For Emily”, Emily goes against the tradition of a young marriage. In the late 1800s it was traditional to get married at a young age, while Emily stayed single throughout her entire life. Intimacy before marriage was not accepted by society either, but this did not stop Emily and her lover from living together. The townspeople described her situation as ...a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people (0). Emily resisted the traditional ways of society to accommodate her own happiness.


In Barn Burning, Sarty knows that what his father is doing is wrong and does not want to live that life once he grows older. Since burning barns and thievery had been part of the familys tradition, it was expected of Sarty. His father tries to convince Sarty that his life may depend on these traditions by saying, Youre getting to be a man. You got to learn. You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you aint going to have any blood to stick to you (147). His father is trying to threaten Sarty by saying that if he does not support his family, then they will not tolerate him. In the end, Sarty sacrifices his family for his independence, because he would rather be honest and alone than with a dishonest family.


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Both Emilys and Sartys lives were extremely influenced by their fathers. In A Rose for Emily, Emilys father did not think any man was good enough for his daughter, which left Emily a single woman until after his death. The townspeople describe her period of denial by telling “them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days...Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly (8). A direct result her fathers death, she murdered her own lover, Homer Barron, in fear of losing him. Her denial of death occurs in both her father and Homers death. She slept with Homers corpse for over 40 years, never admitting to the fact that he was dead. The only way Emily could get what she wanted was to go against everything society considered normal.


Sartys father forces him to make a decision, leaving him a much happier life. In Barn Burning, Sarty saw his father burning down barn after barn and realized that he did not want to be like that. As the story progresses, Sarty begins to realize that he does not have to live this life, even if his father and brother do. The more Sartys father tries to force Sarty to become like himself, the more Sarty knows that he does not want to. His father was the cause of Sartys decision to give up his family to become someone respectable, unlike his father.


Emilys character does not change throughout the story. She has always gone against the traditional ways and did as she pleased. Sarty is a dynamic character because in the beginning of Barn Burning, he does as his father says even though he does not want to. As the story progresses, Sarty starts to realize that he does not want to be like his father. Sartys turning point is when his father is about to burn another barn and he thinks to himself, I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again. Only I cant. I cant (15). He starts to think of giving up his family to do the right thing. At the end of Barn Burning, Sarty completely changes and becomes independent, leaving behind his family. Sarty does what he is told to do in the beginning and what he thinks is right in the end.


William Faulkners A Rose for Emily and Barn Burning both capture the American culture of rebellion against society. The use of the themes that Faulkner uses illustrates that rebellion against normal ways is sometimes the only way that one can achieve true happiness in their life.





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