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Comparing The Setting Of Barn Burning To A Rose For Emily

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Category: Book Reports

Autor: anton 18 March 2011

Words: 1329 | Pages: 6

Comparing the Setting of “Barn Burning” to that of “A Rose for Emily”

William Faulkner has written some of the most unique novels and short stories of any author, and, to this day, his stories continue to be enjoyed by many. Both “Barn Burning” and “A Rose for Emily” tell about the life of southern people and their struggles with society, but Faulkner used the dramatic settings of these two stories to create a mood unlike any other and make the audience feel like they too were a part of these southern towns. These two stories have many similarities in there setting, but they also have many differences to that make them unique and interesting.

In many of Faulkner’s stories, he tells about an imaginary county in Mississippi named Yoknapatawpha. He uses this county as the setting for his story “Barn Burning” and it is also thought that the town of Jefferson from “A Rose for Emily” is located in Yoknapatawpha County. The story of a boy’s struggle between being loyal to his family or to his community makes “Barn Burning” exciting and dramatic, but a sense of awkwardness and unpleasantness arrives from the story of how the fictional town of Jefferson discovers that its long time resident, Emily Grierson, has been sleeping with the corpse of her long-dead friend with whom she has had a relationship with.

Another point is, both stories take place after the civil war, but “Barn Burning” takes place in a more rural area. In paragraph 2 of “A Rose for Emily,” it says, “only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps.” This statement gives proof that Jefferson is an urban society that is moving into the industrial period. The Snopes family in “Barn Burning” lives in the outskirts of a small rural town of farmers and sharecroppers. The contrast between the somewhat urban and high class environment of “A Rose for Emily” and the dirt covered town in “Barn Burning” becomes evident when the two houses are described.

Another aspect that contributes to the stories’ setting is the descriptions of the homes of the Snopes and the Griersons. Miss Emily’s home is described as being decorated and clean with many details in the woodwork, and the Snopes’ home is told to be a paintless, two bedroom house like the many others they had lived in. Both homes in the stories have become the symbol for the class of people which they house, but as Miss Emily had shrunk from her aristocratic mindset, so did her house. The location of the action of both stories cannot be more different, but their locations contribute greatly to the mood created in the stories.

The atmosphere created in these two stories is quite unique, but both stories have a sense of secrecy about them. In “Barn Burning,” the audience can tell that the father is withholding something from the other characters and never comes out and talks about burning the barns, and in “A Rose for Emily,” Miss Emily uses passive resistance because she feels that she is better than everyone else, thus creating a mysterious demeanor. The audience knows that Miss Emily is hiding something from the characters, and it’s not until after her death that her secret is revealed. “Barn Burning” has a suspenseful atmosphere from the beginning, and this becomes evident in the quiet wagon ride to the Snopes’ new home. “He did not know where they were going. None of them ever did or ever asked,” Sarty explains in paragraph 25 of “Barn Burning.” The wild and quick temper of Sarty’s father makes the audience feel like they’re on the edge, because they never know what he is going to do. In “A Rose for Emily,” there is an awkward feeling created because Miss Emily is keeping quiet about her actions. When the Aldermen came to Miss Emily’s home, “it smelled of dust and disuse” and “a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs.” The dirty and dark atmosphere of her house gives the story its mystifying feeling and the audience continues to want to find out why she has let her home go to waste. Also, the dirt and grime of her home is bringing Miss Emily down from her noblesse oblige state of mind. On the other hand the character Colonel Sartoris is used in both stories which helps develop the post civil war mood. The audience ends both stories feeling at a loss for words because the endings are unexpected. The reader does not expect Miss Emily to have been sleeping with a dead man, nor do we expect Sarty to go against his own family ending in the death of his father. The atmosphere of both stories entices the readers into feeling nasty and dirty just as the Sarty Snopes and Miss Emily must feel.

Also contributing to the unique setting of these stories is the social context in the story. The social context is probably the largest and most important contributor to the overall setting and atmosphere of the stories. Using the reactions of the townspeople in “A Rose for Emily,” the reader can tell that sleeping with the dead corpse of a lover is not socially acceptable. The reader knows from the social context, that society must find Miss Emily unusual, just as society must find the father in “Barn Burning” offensive. The society in “Barn Burning” does not like people who burn down other people’s barns especially in the farming community of Yoknapatawpha County. As Abner Snopes left his court hearing “a voice hissed Barn Burner!” This piece of information changes the reader’s outlook on why there is a big fuss over a lost barn. The barn probably would not have meant much if this community did not rely on farming to make a living, and this is the reason that the social context makes such an impact on the setting and atmosphere of “Barn Burning.” The social context also involves the different feelings between two generations of people as in “Barn Burning” or between two different social classes as in “A Rose for Emily.” The father in “Barn Burning” feels the boy should be loyal to the family not his community, but the boy is from a different generation where being loyal to the community is equally as important as being loyal to family. In the case of “A Rose for Emily,” Miss Emily, being from a higher social class, feels that she is above the law, but the working class people feel that she deserves the same treatment as the rest of society. In paragraphs 15-21, Miss Emily’s neighbors begin complaining about the stench coming from her home and demand that the mayor does something about it, but Judge Stevens just responds by saying “I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” which suggests that he too thinks of Miss Emily as a higher class citizen. “A Rose for Emily” also portrays a difference between the feelings of two generations of people. When Miss Emily’s neighbor began complaining to Judge Stevens about the stench coming from Miss Emily’s home, the conflict begins. The neighbor, being of a younger generation, feels that the courts should do something about it, but the eighty-year-old Judge Stevens responds by saying, “Dammit sir, will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?” The social context of the story and the different feeling of the characters make for a unique setting and atmosphere.

Whether the setting of a story is insignificant or important strictly depends on the way the author develops the time, place, atmosphere, and social context. In Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and “A Rose for Emily” the setting becomes a huge contributor toward the overall mood and timeline of the stories. Faulkner wrote these two short stories in such a way that the audience feels like they’re living in that dusty old house or the farming community in rural Mississippi.

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