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Stunning Comparison in Faulkner's a Rose for Emily and Barn Burning

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Essay title: Stunning Comparison in Faulkner's a Rose for Emily and Barn Burning

Stunning Comparison in Faulkner's A Rose for Emily and Barn Burning

In the words of Oscar Wilde, "The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves." Conflict between the "well-bred" people and their "wise" counterparts satiates William Faulkner's short stories "A Rose for Emily" and "Barn Burning." The inability of Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily" and Abner Snopes' father in "Barn Burning" to accept and cope with their changing environments leads to an even greater quarrel with their neighbors; in each of Faulkner's stories, this inability escalates into a horrific murder. "A Rose for Emily" and "Barn Burning" are filled with gross contradictions that make conflict unavoidable.

In "A Rose for Emily," different characters hold two opposing views of time itself. The first interpretation of time is that of a "world as present, a mechanical progression" (West 75). The narrator, the new Board of Aldermen, Homer Barron, and the newest generation represent this interpretation. These individuals, holding a new, less restricted point of view, prefer to keep everything set down in books, a practice strongly disapproved of by those who interpret their time as a "world of tradition, divided from us by the most recent decade of years" (West 75). Emily Grierson and her Negro servant, Colonel Sartoris, and the old Board of Aldermen represent this old view. This old view of time prefers the social decorum associated with the Old South. All of the supporters of the old view are survivors of the Civil War, and it is no coincidence that these are the same people who continue to deny the changing customs of the post-war society. Furthermore, the jumbled order of events in "A Rose for Emily" symbolizes the South's struggle to maintain pace with the accelerating industrialization in the North (West 72). The South's struggle causes it to be a "culture unable to cope with its own death and decay" (West 72). The overall conflict between the old and new thought can also be viewed as a rivalry between the pragmatic present and the set traditions of the past (West 75).

Emily Grierson, the main character in "A Rose for Emily," is the old view's main advocate. She fails to see that she is in a new age, one not bound by past promises (West 75). Emily is obsessed with halting the unwavering passage of time, and it is her obsession that causes her to be unable to accept death. Emily's problem is first accounted for when she cannot accept her father's death; later, it causes tension in the community after the death of Colonel Sartoris, who had previously exempted her of her taxes. Emily fails to recognize the death of Colonel Sartoris, so she adamantly refuses to pay her taxes even with the new Board of Aldermen in control. Emily's stubbornness contributes to her desolation, and while she is "shut away from the world, she grows into something monstrous" (Stone 75). Her monstrousness reaches a pinnacle when she poisons Homer Barron. Because she is unable to cope with the deterioration of her life, she attempts to blur the past and the present together. By murdering Homer Barron and the new view he represents, Emily can bring her only love into her state of mind. She locks him in a room in her dilapidated home, and "what was left of him had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay" (West 75). The room truly becomes timeless, as all the objects held within its walls remain untouched. West

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