William Faulkner was a great writer of the twentieth century. He was born in a rather rich family in New Albany, Mississippi. He had three younger brothers: Jack, John and Dean. When William was four years old, his family moved to Oxford, Mississippi. His family influenced greatly on his development. His mother and grandmother were very good in painting, photographing and reading. When William went to school, he succeeded almost immediately. However, in the fifth grade, William became more indifferent to his studies.
William Faulkner began to write poetry at the age of adolescence, but the first set of novels was written only in 1927, and was called “Flags in the Dust”. The following years he writes such novels as “The Sound and the Fury”, “Mosquitoes”, “Soldier’s Play”, “As I Lay Dying” and others.
In the 1931 he published his first short story collection which was called “Theses thirteen”. One of the short stories, which are to be analyzed in this paper, was also included into this collection.
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The peculiarity of Faulkner’s style was that he used “Stream of consciousness” frequently. His stories are emotional, cerebral, complex, perhaps, grotesque or gothic, subtle. In Faulkner’s stories one may find different characters, sometimes they are opposite to each other, like in the story “Barn Burning”. This short story was written in 1939 and published in Faulkner’s collection of short stories, which was called “Harper”.
This story is about class conflicts, class hate; the desire of the poor to make the rich suffer. This story is told from the point of view of a ten years old boy, named Colonel Sartoris Snopes.
The boy’s father was very conflict person and, as we may see from the story told, he had conflicts with his every employer. That is what the story begins from. The boy and his father, Abner Snopes, are in the court. Abner was the accused in having burned the barn of the landlord; and little Colonel was to testify. But when the judge saw him, he decided that such a little boy was not able to testify and let the father go away from the town and never come back. The family – the father, Sartoris, his elder brother, their mother, aunt and two sisters – went away from the town and in two days of the trip, they found a new house. This very day Abner took Sartoris with him and they went to the landlord, Major de Spain. On their way there, Abner stepped into horse droppings and then, already in the house, cleaned his shoes against the white rug. The Major was very angry and brought that rug to the Snopes so they will clean it. Abner cleaned the rug by using harsh lye soap and in the night brought it back to the Major’s house and dropped in front of the door. Major de Spain went to the court and Abner was fined for twenty bushels of corn instead of paying the whole sum of money for the rug. During the trial, the judge reduced the fine to ten bushels of corn.
However, Abner was not satisfied with that fine. He decided to set the fire to Major’s barn. Sartoris warned Major de Spain and then ran towards his father. But Major overtook him and Sartoris was to hide in the bushes. Soon he heard three gun shots but did not understand who exactly was shot. After the dawn, the little boy went to meet his own new life.
As we see, the father of the boy started the conflict. In this situation he was not right. He did not have any good manners and thought that, as he was poor and worked for landlords, they should have respected and honored him greatly. But form his side, he did not want to respect them. This conflict might have been avoided. If the father respected the landlord, he had never brought mud and, especially, horse droppings into the house. Abner did not understand that this carpet would have been cleaned by such people as he was; the landlord would have never cleaned the carpet for himself, he would make the others do that.
In this short story it is not clear why Abner has set the fire on the barn of his previous landlord. In my opinion, the main reason for all the conflicts, described in the story, is the father’s difficult character. He thought that every landlord owned him something, that his fate should have been a mistake.
In the other story, “A Rose for Emily”, there is not only one conflict. The story begins when Miss Emily dies. The citizens of the whole city came there. Mainly, because she lived alone, and nobody was allowed to enter her house. The only one to enter her house was the old black man, who brought her food every day. In the story we may see the whole life of Miss Emily. She lived with her father who watched carefully for her boyfriends. When her father died, she did not want to believe the truth, and since three days did not allow to bury her father. But then she accepted the fact that she was alone. Shortly after that she got acquainted with Homer Barron, a laborer who came to their town to pave the sidewalks. Since long time they were seen together in the evening. The citizens were surprised, because Homer was known as a person who would never marry. But the relations developed and the society did believe in their marriage. Soon after that, Homer disappeared from the town but then he was seen in the town again. The last time when he was seen, was when he entered Emily’s house late at night.
After that Emily’s behavior remained the same, as before her father’s death. The town council was unable to confront her against the smell which was sensed near her house. In the darkness, two men sprinkled lime around the house and smell disappeared.
The town’s mayor made the agreement, according to which, Miss Emily was allowed not to pay taxes. He explained that her father donated huge sum of money to the town and to thank Emily, the release her from paying taxes. When the new mayor got the power, he sent the delegation to explain Miss Emily that they had not found any proves of Emily’s father’s money.
Miss Emily did not even want to talk to them. She was sure that she was right and in some minutes asked the black man, who served her, to see the men off.
But that was not the only conflict between miss Emily and the inhabitants of the town. The other conflict happened when the citizens asked the mayor to do something, to order miss Emily to clean up her yard, because it smelled very bad out of here. When the mayor addressed to her, she did not even listen to him; she said she did not talk to anyone.
In these stories the situations are alike. Both Abner and Emily considered others to be disreputable to communicate with them. They thought that the whole world owes them. Both conflicts were easy to have been avoided, but because of the difficult character of Emily and Abner, it became a great problem. The best way out was to talk to the people. If they had a small conversation with those, who did not like them, it would have been much better than burning down the barn, or not listening to the others at all.
On the other hand, Emily’s conflict is not so awful, as Abner’s, because nobody was damaged in the story “A Rose for Emily”, instead of the story “Barn Burning”, in which the little boy has lost his family and home.
The peculiarity of both stories and conflicts as well, is that the stories are told from the third person, and not from the heroes themselves. That is why we may objectively judge the conflicts. We do not read about the feelings of the person, whose property was damaged, or feelings hurt. We read the point of view of the person who was there and could tell the story from his or her perspective: no judgment, no anger, no hurt feelings, and just pure mind of a narrator.
Although, Faulkner was not very popular in America during his life, he became very famous among the readers in the second half of the twentieth century. The conflicts, described in the stories, will be always actual for all the ages; and hopefully with the help of such stories, as these, we will learn how to talk to people before making something bad, before damaging their lives.
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