circumstance and thetimes. Some people choose not to let circumstance rule them and, as they
say, “time waits for no man”. Faulkner’s Emily did not have the individual
confidence, or maybe self-esteem and self-worth, to believe that she could
stand 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 and
act for her. From her Father, through the manservant Tobe, to Homer Barron,
all her life was dependent on men. The few flashes of individuality showed
her ability to rise to the occasion, to overcome her dependency, when the
action was the only solution available. Like buying the poison or getting
money by offering china-painting classes. Life is sad and tragic; some of
which is made for us and some of which we make ourselves.
Emily had a hard life. Everything that she loved left her. Her father
probably impressed upon her that every man she met was no good for her. The
townspeople even state “when her father died, it got about that the house
was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad being left
alone. She had become humanized” (219). This sounds as if her father’s
death was sort of liberation for Emily. In a way it was, she could begin to
date and court men of her choice and liking. Her father couldn’t chase them
off any more. But then again, did she have the know-how to do this, after
all those years of her father’s past actions? It also sounds as if the
townspeople thought Emily was above the law because of her high-class
stature. Now since the passing of her father she may be like them, a middle
class working person.
Unfortunately, for Emily she became home bound. She didn’t socialize much
except for having her manservant Tobe visit to do some chores and go to the
store for her. Faulkner depicts Emily and her family as a high social
class. Emily did carry her self with dignity and people gave her that
respect, based from fear of what Emily could do to them. Emily was a strong
willed person especially when she went into the drug store for the arsenic.
She said “Arsenic.” “I want arsenic” (220). All along, the druggist wanted
to know what she wanted it for and she answered back “I want the best you
have. I don’t care what kind” (220). Needless to say, the druggist never
got an answer. The druggist gave Emily poison out of fear and respect,
Yes, Emily didn’t socialize much, but she did have a gentleman friend,
Homer Barron. Homer was a Forman for a road construction company, Faulkner
writes “a forman named Homer Barron, a Yankee a big, dark, ready man, with
a big voice and eyes lighter than his face”(220). Emily’s father probably
would not be pleased with this affair with Homer, considering her
upbringing. Homer was a ‘commoner’ and did not fit the social standards of
Of course, Emily, like most women dream of getting married and having a
family 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, we
were not pleased, but vindicated; … She wouldn’t have turned down all of
her chances if they had materialized” (221). Emily wanted to be loved, and
she was determined that Homer would be her true love to rescue her from
fear, fear of being alone. Indeed Emily took a great liking to Homer, but
Homer’s feelings about the relationship were different. It was rumored that
“even Homer himself had remarked–he liked men, and it was known that he
drunk 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 bought
invitations and clothes for Homer. Emily grew fearful of Homer’s departure,
fear of being left alone again. Faulkner writes” A neighbor saw the Negro
man (Tobe) admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening. And that’s
the last we saw of Homer Barron” (221).
Once again, a fear of change, the fear of losing Homer and being left
alone, she decided to poison him. Feeling that if she could not have him
alive 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 until
her death did, the truth come out about Homer’s death. The “Rose” for
Emily, Faulkner talks about in the title of this fictitious story could be
found in the tomb like bedroom she created, which wasn’t found till Emily’s
death. “Upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded
light” (223). These rose colored items gave the room an artificial rose
like color. The clich “as seen through rose colored glasses” comes to
mind. Homer dead, all those years, among the rose colored room. He was also
cast with the rose color about the room. Everything in this room was
Emily’s rose, locked away for keeping, so she would not be left alone.
William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning” describes a typical
relationship between wealthy people and poor people during the Civil War.
The main character, Abner Snopes, sharecrops to make a living for his
family. He despises wealthy people. Out of resentment for wealthy people,
he goes and burns their barns to get revenge. Abner’s character over the
course of the story is unchanging in that he is cold hearted, lawless, and
First, Abner’s unchanging character shows his cold heartedness. After being
sentenced to leave the country for burning a man’s barn, he shows no
emotions to his family. During the story, there was not a time when he
apologized or offered a word of encouragement to them. His tone of voice
when 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 orders
his wife, her sister and his two daughters to unload the wagon. He walks
with his son to DeSpain’s house where he entered without given permission,
and proceeded to wipe his feet that was covered with horse manure, thus
staining the rug. “Abner moves through life with no regard for his fellow
humans 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 in
pots of lye and then hanging it to dry. Later in the evening Abner calls
his son to get to return the rug to DeSpain. When Abner returned to
DeSpain’s house he threw the rug on the porch instead of knocking on the
door and returning it to DeSpain properly. Abner was later charged for the
damages he did to the rug. “This is enough to satisfy Abner yet again that
the social system only works in behalf of the rich, and he sets out that
night 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 an
interesting case for Abner Snopes as the pitiable creation of the landed
aristocracy, who seeks dignity and integrity for himself, although his only
chance of achieving either would seem to lie in the democratic element of
fire 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 fighting
in 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 by
committing arson. At the beginning of the story, Abner is in a makeshift
courtroom where he is being tried for burning Mr. Harris’ barn. There was
no 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 standing
near, 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 a
bad start. Just a few days had gone by and Abner took Major DeSpain to
court claiming his fine was to high for the damage he did to his rug. The
court ruled in DeSpain’s favor fining him, “to the amount of ten bushels of
corn over and above your contract with him, to be paid to him out of your
crop at gathering time” (226), thus setting off Abner’s anger. As a result
he set out that night and put DeSpain’s barn on fire.
Finally Abner’s unchanging character is revealed not only in his role as
being cold-hearted and lawless but also as violent. It is seen throughout
the story that Abner’s act of burning barns is violent. Abner slaps his son
when 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 beatings
from his father. While paying a non-welcomed visit to Major DeSpain’s
house, he enters the house, “flinging the door back and the Negro also and
entering, his hat still on his head” (221). This showed that Abner has no
remorse for anyone. This started the incident with the rug, which later led
to 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 the
back of the shirt and hands him to his wife. He orders he to hold on to him
and not let him run away. After Snopes leaves the house with his older son
and the can of kerosene, Sarty escapes from his mother and runs to the
house of Major DeSpain. The Major, informed by Sarty of the danger, finds
Snopes 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 throughout
the story, shows his unchanging character. The story portrays how a poor
man feel’s when the law is based on taking the rich man’s side. It follows
him from being a cold-hearted father and husband to a lawless and violent
man, which, towards the end of the story, leads him to the death of
himself. Things today are better than they were back during the Civil War.
People are still categorized by how much money they have. But, because of
better law enforcement and court systems, people can not get away with the
so-called revenge and hatred, as portrayed by the acts of Abner in the
. Kirszner ; Mandell, ed. Literature. 3rd ed. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart and
. Magill, Frank. Critical Survey of Short Fiction. California: Salem
. Salyman, Jack, and Pamela Wilkinson. Major Characters in American
Fiction. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1994.