Surname 1Name:University:Course:Tutor:Date: Social Class and the Effects in “Barn Burning” and “A Rose for Emily” In his stories, “Barn Burning” and “A Rose for Emily”, William Faulkner’s characterscan be compared in the way they struggle with social class issues, their reactions to the changesthat happen in their lives. Emily is a daughter from an aristocratic family who is struggling toretain the family’s reputation and the status that she enjoyed when her father was alive. On theother hand is a cruel, violent, and selfish Abner Snopes who isolates his family through hisviolent acts towards those whom he calls his enemies, as Abner Snopes tries to protest to thosewhom he thinks are of different class from him. This comparison is basically going to exemplifyhow people are affected by the social status gap within the community. The story “Barn Burning” is a story based on the social class issues that werecharacteristic of the beginning of the twentieth century. The story has a rural setting during thepost-Civil War. The story talks about a man’s vengeance to the society by burning anddestroying property. Abner Snopes actions are a vengeance to the society for perceivedinjustices. It is narrated by Abner Snopes ten year old son Sarty as he struggles to decidebetween family loyalty and following his conscience. The injustices are perceived becauseSnopes is not an honest man who has been exploited, but a laborer who is dissatisfied with theworld. Mr. Harris explains how one of the hogs of Abner Snopes destroyed his corn, and then hetook the hog as payment for the ruined corn. Abner then sent a messenger with the message that
Surname 2suggests threats on property and life, “Kin burn hay and wood.” This shows that Abner was notreally being exploited because his hog had destroyed Mr. Harris corn and he had refused to payfor the damaged corn. The burning was being malicious to Mr. Harris; this also Abner views thatMr. Harris took the hog because he is of different social class. The contrast is seen in the main characters. In “Barn Burning” the story is about anunkind man Mr. Abner Snopes as narrated by one of his sons, the ten year old. Colonel SartorisSnopes (Sarty) to whom he is very unkind. Abner Snopes has no respect for justice. Abnersuffers from feelings of inferiority and tries to cover up this by being cruel and domineering toeveryone including his own family. Abner shows his contempt of the elite class by constantlydestroying their property through arson on slight provocation. Abners has on several occasions expressed this contempt by burning the barns of thosepeople whom he believes to be more superior to him. Mr. Snopes intentionally soils Major deSpain’s carpet and when asked to wash it he destroys it even further as depicted in the statement“and now the boy saw the prints of the stiff foot on the doorjamb and saw them appear on thepale rug behind the machinelike deliberation of the foot which seemed to bear (or transmit) twicethe weight” (Faulkner 220). This is seen as a way to dispute against those he believes to be ofdifferent class. Snopes has no regards or respect for other people, and not even his own family.When Major de Spain asks him to clean the blond rug he immediately forces his daughters toclean after his mess. Snopes keeps on threatening his family and continues to destroy theirsecurity by his arsonist’s acts which, always result in the family being moved from town to town. Snopes uses the symbol of fire to destroy property of those he believes have power overhim. He uses fire as he compares it to the power of the gun that other men have and as the waythrough which he might regain his integrity, “the element of fire spoke to a deep mainspring of
Surname 3his father’s being, as the element of steel or powder spoke to other men” (Faulkner 188) . WhenSnopes soils the rug, this symbolizes the deepening of his anger towards those whom he calls hisenemies. Abner Snopes anger moves beyond destroying their livelihood represented by the barnsto everything that they own represented by the household items, the carpet. Snopes reacts to thisas a way to protest to those he beliefs are in a higher class than him. One of Snopes legs has a problem and he therefore walks with a limb. Abner Snopes washurt during the Civil War as he was caught with a stolen horse “the wiry figure walking a littlestiffly from where a Confederate provosts mans musket ball had taken him in the heel on astolen horse thirty years ago” (Faulkner 186) the son narrates. This shows the character that isSnope’s as he didn’t go to the war to fight but to serve his own selfishness. It is based on thislack of morals that Snopes does not think it is wrong to ask his son, Sarty, to lie on his behalf.Sarty has been told to lie for his father. The father has forced Sarty to keep on lying about whathe witnessed about his father burning of the barns. He is told that this is in honor of the family. He is made to choose between family loyaltyand what is morally right, telling the truth by testifying against his father. He remains loyal butwith inner battles from his conscience urging him to do what is right. Sarty finally gets awayfrom his father, that being the morally right thing to do. By doing so, Sarty overcomes hisfather’s struggle with class and social issues. Sarty is freed as he decides to reveal what hisfather’s plans are to burn down Major de Spain’s barn; he is free and leaves his family to start hisown life away from the menacing behavior of his father. “A Rose for Emily” is a story about a lady who struggles to retain the family traditionafter she finds herself alone after the death of her father. The story is based on a small town,Jefferson. Emily’s family can be assumed to have been from an aristocratic family. Emily is a
Surname 4troubled woman is she staying in the family house and refuses to change with her surroundings.Emily completely refuses to embrace and accept the reality and changes that surrounds her. Afterher father died Emily’s charm and aristocracy manners started deteriorating until her own death. Emily remained a spinster all her life as her father had refused to accept the suitors thatmay have asked for her hand in marriage. This shows that Emily’s family considered themselvesof a class that was higher than anyone else in the small town. Emily’s fall from grace beginswhen she and Homer Baron become lovers and the town people start talking about it. Homer is aforeman of the construction company. Emily believes that they will get married but when sherealizes that they wouldn’t, she poisoned him and kept the body in the house. The body is foundforty years later and only after her own death. Even if Emily isolates herself from the society, it is evident that she is still respectedwithin the society. When there is a foul smell coming from her house, the judge did not want toembarrass her by telling her to clean herself, as the judge inquires, “Will you accuse a lady to herface of smelling bad”? (Faulkner 355). He instead sends some people from the town to go andrefresh the house at night by spreading lime around the house. This respect is also drawn whenthe druggist at the drug store asks of which use is the poison (arsenic) which Emily wants topurchase, as it is required of the law. She stares cold back at the druggist and this prompts thedruggist to look away and offers the arsenic to Emily, this show that early times it was bad toquestion someone from a noble family or a person of a higher social status. The two stories compare in that they are stories on social class issues. The stories addressthe class issues, one family (Emily’s) perceiving themselves as too superior and the other oneperceiving to be inferior. They are similar in that they show how a father’s pride to retain classcan destroy a family, the only difference being that while Emily’s life is destroyed with
Surname 5loneliness, Sarty manages to escape. Because of their struggle with class issues, the characters inthe two stories have psychological issues that affect them. Emily is living in a world of her own. She never leaves the house and she has no sociallive. Emily loses sense of time as she does not realize that Colonel Sartoris has been dead for tenyears. Snopes psychological problem is portrayed in his over aggressive vengeful behavior. Thetwo families are isolated from the society as they do not want to mix with those who are not oftheir class. However, a difference arises as the town people are concern about Emily despite thisfact that she has isolated herself. The town people do still have some respect for the Griersonname, Emily being the last of this family. The fact that the story is based in a small town couldhave contributed to the people’s curiosity to know what was happening to Emily and the familyas “the day after his death, all the ladies prepared to call at the house” (Faulkner 206). Being from an aristocratic family, there was the possibility that the people would beattracted to idle gossip about this family. This can be supported by the fact that when she haddied, they had attended her funeral just to satisfy their curiosity on what was inside the house asno one had been there for a long time. This is in contrast to Abner Snopes as being in a ruralsetting; the homes were isolated from one another. Again there was the possibility that peoplewould be too busy with their farm work and wouldn’t have time to be curious about someonewho was from a lower social class and who had only succeeded in making people’s lifemiserable. On the other had Snopes has no friends and also disregards his family and through hisaction they are constantly shifting from one place to another. There is no society to form anopinion about him. The two however are in denial and refuse to accept the reality of the classthat they find themselves in with Emily “was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition
Surname 6of her dignity”, while Snopes use of fire was an attempt to regain his integrity. Another way theycompare is when they struggle to retain the family tradition. Emily dies when she is stillstruggling to keep the family tradition while in “Barn Burning” the young Sarty decided to breakfree from the family. Another comparison between Emily and Snopes is their defying authority though theyexpress it in different ways and for different reasons. Emily defies authority by refusing to paytaxes as she claims that there had been a ten year old agreement between her and the then Mayor,Colonel Sartoris. Snopes defies authority by refusing to accept justice and justifies himself byburning barns. Emily’s defiance is based on feelings of superiority while Snopes is based onfeelings of inferiority. The Negros at the residents of Emily in “A Rose for Emily” and at Mr. Spain’s houserepresent the low class, this is how black people were graded in the society. Being black by thenhad meant that one was to be disregarded and assumed. The low class black people were onlyused for manual work and as servants as seen in these two books. It did not matter if the blackperson was educated or not. They generally belonged to the underclass. This is shown when acertain black man is nearly confused with Slopes and given a barbed wire. This together withtaking of the hog as a penalty fro the hog destroying Mr. Harris corn provokes Slopes and theresult of grading him with a Negro leads to burning of his barn. Faulkner ends the two stories in a tragic but similar manner as both Emily and Snopes diewhile still struggling to retain the social class that was expected of them. The only person whosurvives is Sarty as he runs away from his home and from the struggle. He stands up for himselfand runs away to freedom.
Surname 7 Works CitedFaulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. 1930. September 15, 2010 http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/litweb05/workshops/fiction/faulkner1.aspFaulkner, William. Barn Burning 1939. September 15, 2010 http://www.rajuabju.com/literature/ barnburning.htmFaulkner, William and Robinette, Joseph. A Rose for Emily. 1930. Woodstock: Dramatic Publishing