The Relationships Between Children Essay Research Paper

The Relationships Between Children Essay, Research Paper

If we compare William Faulkner’s two short stories, “A Rose for Emily” and “Barn Burning“, he structures the plots of these two stories differently. However, both of the stories note the effect of a father’s teaching, and in both the protagonists Miss Emily and Sarty make their own decisions about their lives. The stories present major idea through symbolism that includes strong metaphorical meaning. Both stories affect my thinking of life.

Both “A Rose for Emily” and “Barn Burning” address the influence of a father, and the protagonists of both stories make their own decisions. Miss Emily Grierson is a lonely old woman, living a life void of all love and affection and who is violated by her father‘s strict mentality. Throughout the life of Emily Grierson, she remains locked up, never experiencing love from anyone but her father. She lives a life of loneliness, left only to dream of the love missing from her life. The domineering attitude of Emily’s father keeps her to himself, inside the house, and alone until his death. In his own way, Emily’s father shows her how to love. Through a forced obligation to love only him, as he drives off young male callers, he teaches his daughter lessons of love. It is this dysfunctional love that resurfaces later, because it is the only way Emily knows how to love. Her father who prevents her from dating with any young man until she is thirty. Her father’s deed enhances her thirst for love and security. After her father died, she finally has the freedom of love. Like her father though, Miss Emily possesses a stubborn outlook towards life, she refuses to change and let go.

The event of her father’s death is a shock to Miss Emily because the guidance of her father is gone. This explains Miss Emily’s behavior after her father’s death as well as her reaction to another character Homer Barron. Homer Barron is the first lower-class person to reach Miss Emily after her father’s death. When she meets Homer Barron and thinks that she has found her true love. But opposite of what she wants, Homer is a homosexual: “he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks Club — that he was not a marrying man” (“A Rose for Emily”, 76). While Miss Emily is still distressed by her father’s death, homer’s affection brings Miss Emily out of her grief. Homer Barron therefore frees Miss Emily from her reserved nature. However, the news that Homer Barron is leaving town for another women pushes Miss Emily to the edge of insanity. While Miss Emily’s father and Homer Barron influences Miss Emily to have the confused personality she does, Faulkner also suggests her insane behavior may be inherited. The insanity of Miss Emily’s great aunt, old lady Wyatt, suggests that Miss Emily’s craziness may be passed on from her family line. By informing the reader about old lady Wyatt’s insanity, Faulkner foreshadows Miss Emily’s own madness. To keep Homer with her forever, Miss Emily chooses to murder Homer. “Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and learning forward, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair” (“A Rose for Emily“, 78), Faulkner implies that Miss Emily actually sleeps with the corpse. She must love Homer deeply, to endure the rotten smell and appearance of the dead body. She even enjoys being with it. “The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace” (“A Rose for Emily”, 78). Although she picks the most ridiculous way to express love, her courage to choose her own way of life compels admiration.

Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” takes place in the late nineteenth century South. Primarily a story about the relationship between father and son, the story presents itself through the use of symbolism. The most vital sign being fire. The fire is much like the main character in the story, Abner. Both Abner and the fire are uncontrollable and destroy anything in its way, having respect for nothing. Sarty, Abner’s son, dislikes what his father does out of acts of hate and tries to stop it. He attempts to put out the “fire” inside his father. He is sick of his family’s way of life and is ready for a change no matter what it takes, even if it means going against his own blood. No matter what is done, they can not stop Abner from lashing out and burning buildings. Through his sheer enjoyment of the negative sides of his anger and power, Abner rips his family apart. He does so by forcing his family to put up with the consequences of his actions. In a way, Faulkner writes as a moralist. He demonstrates, through his character Abner, why a reasonable approach to adversity and letdowns is necessary, to avoid allowing one’s problems to get so bad that they can engulf the subject like an inferno. In this story Mrs. DeSpain’s “nigger” acts loyally and tries to save his owner’s animals from the fire that were in the barn. Sarty’s father enjoys setting fires to burn down others properties. Sarty faces the problem between loyalty and honesty. On one hand, he wants to be loyal to his father; on the other hand, he does not endorse his father’s behavior. His father teaches him: “You’re getting to be a man. You got to learn. You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you” (“Barn Burning“, 484). His father wants him to pledge loyalty to his own family, but Sarty can not tolerate his father’s conduct. When his father sets fire to burn down another barn, Sarty thoroughly despairs of his father. He notifies the landlord of the fire, and runs away from his family. “He [Sarty] did not look back” (“Barn Burning“, 493). He does not want to let his father controlling him anymore. He wants to start his own life.

Both the stories present major ideas through symbolism. Faulkner uses particular objects to link the tales with his metaphorical meaning. “A Rose for Emily” does not explicitly involve a rose. Faulkner notes the rose only twice, in the title and the third paragraph from the last, this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: “upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights” (“A Rose for Emily“, 78). But the significant symbolic meaning of the rose strongly affects the reader’s perception of Miss Emily. It stirs the readers to sympathize with Miss Emily. Rose stands for true love, expectation and the most resplendent period of life. Miss Emily adorns her room as a bridal chamber in rose color, representing a woman who yearns for true love and dreams of a fairyland where she and her beloved can stay together forever. For years, Miss Emily’s father drove away all the young men who want to date with her. Her father thwarted her to experiencing love. In her dreary existence, Homer Barron is the only bright spot, one “rose“. Like a wilted rose, she keeps his body, forever. It reminds her of the joy she once had in her otherwise empty life. Although Miss Emily is stubborn and eccentric, she is a pitiful woman who needs more attention and love.

In “Barn Burning”, Faulkner uses Major de Spain’s house to symbolize Sarty’s ambition. Sarty migrates to the house:

He saw the house for the first time and at that instant he forgot his father and the terror and despair both, and even when he remembered his father again (who had not stopped) the terror and despair did not return. Because, for all the twelve movings, they had sojourned until now in a poor country, a land of small farms and fields and houses, and he had never seen a house like this before (“Barn Burning”, 485)

It is a place where Sarty wants to stay. He yearns to be free from worry and control. For years, he migrates from place to place because of his father habit of burning down other’s properties. He dreams to live with peace and hopes that one day his father will change his behavior:

Hit’s big as a courthouse he thought quietly, with a surge of peace and joy whose reason he could not have thought into words. They are safe from him. People whose lives are a part of this peace and dignity are beyond his touch. Maybe he will feel it too. Maybe it will even change him now from what maybe he couldn’t help but be. (“Barn Burning”, 485)

Therefore, when his father sets fire to burn down the barn that belongs to the house, he thoroughly despairs of his father. He not only destroys the barn, but also shatters Sarty’s hope. Sarty decides to leave his family and find his own way of life.

The metaphorical meanings of “A Rose for Emily” and “Barn Burning” teaches me to view life in a different way. I do not agree with Miss Emily’s deed, but admire her inflexible love. She reminds me to be careful when choose a beloved. It is important to find someone who suits me. The other protagonist, Sarty shows strong self-awareness. He is young, but he is able to determine right and wrong. He knows that if he continues to stay with his father, he will not be able to live his own life, or do right things. It is pretty courageous that he decides to leave his family. When I make a decision, I should have the same courage. Both stories’ plots themselves are odd, but the meanings stimulate deep thought.


Faulkner, William. “A Rose For Emily.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s. 1999. 72.

Faulkner, William. “Barn Burning.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s. 1999. 481.


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