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A Comparison of Two Characters in a Rose for Emily and Barn Burning

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A Comparison of Two Characters in A Rose for Emily and Barn Burning

In "A Rose for Emily" and "Barn Burning," William Faulkner creates two characters worthy of comparison. Emily Grierson, a recluse from Jefferson, Mississippi, is an important figure in the town, despite spending most of her life in seclusion. On the contrary, Abner Snopes is a loud, fiery-tempered man that most people tend to avoid. If these characters are judged by reputation and outward appearance only, the conclusion would be that Emily Grierson and Abner Snopes are complete opposites. However, despite the external differences, these two characters have surprisingly similar personalities.

First of all, Emily Grierson and Abner Snopes have very different backgrounds. Emily Grierson is born to a wealthy family, referred to as the "high and mighty Griersons" (50). She lives in an elegant and large house, rebuilt after the Civil War. Her house is set in the heart of what was once the most elite area of Jefferson. She spends almost all of her life inside this house, coming outside its walls only on rare occasions. Yet the townspeople are always concerned with Miss Emily, as she is the last Grierson. They are interested in what is going on with her, constantly putting together the pieces of her life. However, no matter how much the people piece together the events, few know Miss Emily at all. Upon her death, she is said to be a "fallen monument" (47) because she was so idolized throughout her life. On the contrary, Abner Snopes is at the other end of the social scale. He is in the lowest class. As a tenant farmer, Abner lives a life almost like that of a slave. He works continuously from day to day, living with his family in small shacks that "ain't fitten for hawgs"(7). He is itinerant and never has any money. Abner constantly displays his lack of decency and rude manners. He is considered a menace wherever he goes, and no one has any interest in getting to know such a foul and arrogant man. Even though they are at the extreme ends of the social spectrum, Emily Grierson and Abner Snopes have something in common-they are both outsiders in the communities they live in.

Colonel Grierson limits the people Miss Emily is allowed to see and to the point that she has no friends or even acquaintances. So after her father dies, she does not know anyone and has no idea how to socialize and make friends. Just as Miss Emily is isolated from the townspeople, they feel isolated from her. She is thought of not as someone to befriend, but as a member of the aristocracy, like a princess or queen of the town. She is far removed from the rest of society. As usual, common townspeople do not socialize with the high-class citizens, so neither does the community get to know Miss Emily. The town puts together rumors they hear and forms the story of her life. At her funeral, all the people come and are "talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression" (58). However the true reason they go is not because she was a close friend. The people go for two reasons: "the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house" (47). They view her as "a tradition, a duty, and care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town" (47). She is never a true, genuine person in anyone's mind, only an unreachable object.

Miss Emily lives her life as a recluse because of the gap between her and society. Similarly, Abner Snopes is an outcast in the societies he lives in. All the people he meets along the way see him as a low class outsider. His appearance is stiff, mechanical and flat. He is a misanthrope, acting rudely and hatefully towards everyone. He is even harsh around his own family. He does not show affection for his wife or children at any time during his life. The people who witness such events want nothing to do with such a cold and heartless man. Not only do the other people avoid Abner; he avoids them. He is not interested in public affairs and makes no effort to be the least bit accepted by anyone. For example, when he is in court facing charges of burning down a neighbor's barn, he "spoke for the first time, his voice harsh, level, without emphasis. . . . He said something unprintable and vile, addressed to no one" (3). His harsh and intimidating personality creates a gap between him and society, leaving him outside the social circle just as Miss Emily is throughout her life.

Lastly, Emily Grierson and Abner Snopes are very independent. They do not let anyone else have control over their lives. Emily Grierson's

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