circumstance and thetimes. Some people choose not to let circumstance rule them and, as theysay, “time waits for no man”.
Faulkner’s Emily did not have the individualconfidence, or maybe self-esteem and self-worth, to believe that she couldstand alone and succeed at life especially in the face of changing times.She had always been ruled by, and depended on, men to protect, defend andact for her. From her Father, through the manservant Tobe, to Homer Barron,all her life was dependent on men. The few flashes of individuality showedher ability to rise to the occasion, to overcome her dependency, when theaction was the only solution available. Like buying the poison or gettingmoney by offering china-painting classes. Life is sad and tragic; some ofwhich is made for us and some of which we make ourselves.
Emily had a hard life. Everything that she loved left her. Her fatherprobably impressed upon her that every man she met was no good for her. Thetownspeople even state “when her father died, it got about that the housewas all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad being leftalone.
She had become humanized” (219). This sounds as if her father’sdeath was sort of liberation for Emily. In a way it was, she could begin todate and court men of her choice and liking. Her father couldn’t chase themoff any more. But then again, did she have the know-how to do this, afterall those years of her father’s past actions? It also sounds as if thetownspeople thought Emily was above the law because of her high-classstature.
Now since the passing of her father she may be like them, a middleclass working person.Unfortunately, for Emily she became home bound. She didn’t socialize muchexcept for having her manservant Tobe visit to do some chores and go to thestore for her. Faulkner depicts Emily and her family as a high socialclass.
Emily did carry her self with dignity and people gave her thatrespect, based from fear of what Emily could do to them. Emily was a strongwilled person especially when she went into the drug store for the arsenic.She said “Arsenic.” “I want arsenic” (220). All along, the druggist wantedto know what she wanted it for and she answered back “I want the best youhave. I don’t care what kind” (220).
Needless to say, the druggist nevergot an answer. The druggist gave Emily poison out of fear and respect,possibly.Yes, Emily didn’t socialize much, but she did have a gentleman friend,Homer Barron. Homer was a Forman for a road construction company, Faulknerwrites “a forman named Homer Barron, a Yankee a big, dark, ready man, witha big voice and eyes lighter than his face”(220).
Emily’s father probablywould not be pleased with this affair with Homer, considering herupbringing. Homer was a ‘commoner’ and did not fit the social standards ofher father.Of course, Emily, like most women dream of getting married and having afamily and most of all, being loved. The gossip around town was spreading;the townspeople said “when she got to be thirty and was still single, wewere not pleased, but vindicated; .
.. She wouldn’t have turned down all ofher chances if they had materialized” (221).
Emily wanted to be loved, andshe was determined that Homer would be her true love to rescue her fromfear, fear of being alone. Indeed Emily took a great liking to Homer, butHomer’s feelings about the relationship were different. It was rumored that”even Homer himself had remarked–he liked men, and it was known that hedrunk with younger men in the Elk’s clubthat he was not a marrying man”(221).
Homer left Emily and the town for three days, and then came back.While Homer was gone, Emily still was preparing for her wedding. She boughtinvitations and clothes for Homer. Emily grew fearful of Homer’s departure,fear of being left alone again.
Faulkner writes” A neighbor saw the Negroman (Tobe) admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening. And that’sthe last we saw of Homer Barron” (221).Once again, a fear of change, the fear of losing Homer and being leftalone, she decided to poison him. Feeling that if she could not have himalive she thought she could keep him with her if he were dead and she did.Because of her seclusion, no one really knew just how bad it was. Not untilher death did, the truth come out about Homer’s death. The “Rose” forEmily, Faulkner talks about in the title of this fictitious story could befound in the tomb like bedroom she created, which wasn’t found till Emily’sdeath.
“Upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shadedlight” (223). These rose colored items gave the room an artificial roselike color. The clich “as seen through rose colored glasses” comes tomind. Homer dead, all those years, among the rose colored room. He was alsocast with the rose color about the room. Everything in this room wasEmily’s rose, locked away for keeping, so she would not be left alone.
William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning” describes a typicalrelationship between wealthy people and poor people during the Civil War.The main character, Abner Snopes, sharecrops to make a living for hisfamily. He despises wealthy people. Out of resentment for wealthy people,he goes and burns their barns to get revenge. Abner’s character over thecourse of the story is unchanging in that he is cold hearted, lawless, andviolent.First, Abner’s unchanging character shows his cold heartedness. After beingsentenced to leave the country for burning a man’s barn, he shows noemotions to his family. During the story, there was not a time when heapologized or offered a word of encouragement to them.
His tone of voicewhen talking to them is bitter and bossy, and he never said thank you.Later in the story after they had arrived at their next house, he ordershis wife, her sister and his two daughters to unload the wagon. He walkswith his son to DeSpain’s house where he entered without given permission,and proceeded to wipe his feet that was covered with horse manure, thusstaining the rug.
“Abner moves through life with no regard for his fellowhumans and with no respect for their right to material possessions” (731).After being told to clean the rug, Abner took a rock and further ruined it.His coldness is shown when he demands his two daughters to clean the rug inpots of lye and then hanging it to dry. Later in the evening Abner callshis son to get to return the rug to DeSpain. When Abner returned toDeSpain’s house he threw the rug on the porch instead of knocking on thedoor and returning it to DeSpain properly. Abner was later charged for thedamages he did to the rug. “This is enough to satisfy Abner yet again thatthe social system only works in behalf of the rich, and he sets out thatnight to redress this wrong by burning DeSpain’s barn” (855).
Abner’s unchanging character is evident not only in his role as being cold-hearted but also in his role as being lawless. “Barn Burning” makes aninteresting case for Abner Snopes as the pitiable creation of the landedaristocracy, who seeks dignity and integrity for himself, although his onlychance of achieving either would seem to lie in the democratic element offire as the one defense available to all, regardless of social class”(855).Abner’s act of breaking the law begins when he was supposed to be fightingin the Civil War, but instead he stole horses from both sides of the lines.When Abner returned home, he continued his act of breaking the law bycommitting arson. At the beginning of the story, Abner is in a makeshiftcourtroom where he is being tried for burning Mr. Harris’ barn. There wasno evidence to rule against Abner so he was advised to leave the country.
“I aim to. I don’t figure to stay in a country among people who..
.” (217).After sly remarks of “barn burner”(218) from a group of people standingnear, Abner tells his family to get in the wagon and get ready for travel.Abner and his family traveled to their next house where things got off to abad start. Just a few days had gone by and Abner took Major DeSpain tocourt claiming his fine was to high for the damage he did to his rug. Thecourt ruled in DeSpain’s favor fining him, “to the amount of ten bushels ofcorn over and above your contract with him, to be paid to him out of yourcrop at gathering time” (226), thus setting off Abner’s anger.
As a resulthe set out that night and put DeSpain’s barn on fire.Finally Abner’s unchanging character is revealed not only in his role asbeing cold-hearted and lawless but also as violent. It is seen throughoutthe story that Abner’s act of burning barns is violent.
Abner slaps his sonwhen it is evident that he was about to tell the truth about Mr. Harris’barn. His son’s simple reply of yes saved him from more torture beatingsfrom his father.
While paying a non-welcomed visit to Major DeSpain’shouse, he enters the house, “flinging the door back and the Negro also andentering, his hat still on his head” (221). This showed that Abner has noremorse for anyone. This started the incident with the rug, which later ledto the burning of DeSpain’s barn.He shoves his wife away when she tugs at his arm and tries to restrain him.Intending to guard against Satry’s betrayal, he picks up his son by theback of the shirt and hands him to his wife. He orders he to hold on to himand not let him run away. After Snopes leaves the house with his older sonand the can of kerosene, Sarty escapes from his mother and runs to thehouse of Major DeSpain. The Major, informed by Sarty of the danger, findsSnopes and his other son and shoots them before they can burn his barn(731).
This event sparked the end of the violent acts of Abner, forever.The cold hearted, lawless, and violent roles Abner Snopes plays throughoutthe story, shows his unchanging character. The story portrays how a poorman feel’s when the law is based on taking the rich man’s side. It followshim from being a cold-hearted father and husband to a lawless and violentman, which, towards the end of the story, leads him to the death ofhimself. Things today are better than they were back during the Civil War.People are still categorized by how much money they have. But, because ofbetter law enforcement and court systems, people can not get away with theso-called revenge and hatred, as portrayed by the acts of Abner in thestory.
Works Cited. Kirszner ; Mandell, ed. Literature. 3rd ed. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart andWinston, 1997.
. Magill, Frank. Critical Survey of Short Fiction.
California: SalemPress, 1993.. Salyman, Jack, and Pamela Wilkinson. Major Characters in AmericanFiction. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1994.