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The Role Of Father In A Rose For Emily And Barn Burning

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While reading “A Rose for Emily” and “Barn Burning” both by William Faulkner, I noticed there are several similarities and several differences in the fathers’ of Miss Emily Grierson and Sarty Snopes. Both stories took place in Mississippi after The Civil War ended. The stories do explain some of the main characters childhood. However, “A Rose for Emily” is more of a flashback to her childhood periodically throughout the story. In “Barn Burning” we witness Abner’s, the father’s, actions and how it will possibly effect Sarty throughout his life. Both main characters fathers raised them in a way that would be frowned upon now.

In “A Rose for Emily” we meet an elderly Southern woman who has passed away. The whole town attended her funeral, but why? The men saw her as a monument and the women were curious. Emily struggles with newer life and newer age, she refuses to let go of past traditions and refuses to be told what to do, which in return causes her problems in her community. Her father loaned money to the town, which after his passing the former mayor Colonel Sartoris, was attempting to remit back to Emily. Once he passed away the new mayor and the alderman insist that Emily pay the taxes she had been previously exempt from, she refuses to ever pay taxes again. When her father passed she inherits “a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spired and scrolled balconied in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street” (Faulkner). When her father was alive, he refused to let her to marry. He was very intimidating and manipulating and wouldn’t let her experience life the way she wanted. She couldn’t experience life until he passed away unexpectedly when she was 30 years old. However, she struggled with letting him go, therefore she held on to his corpse for three days, refusing to admit he is deceased. After his passing, she experienced the freedom of love, unfortunately this was with a man who was homosexual-Homer Barron. He wasn’t the marrying type, but she wanted to keep him forever. In order for her to do so, she would poison him, ultimately killing him. Again, struggling with letting someone she loved go, she held on to his corpse as well, sleeping beside of him until her passing.

However, the difference is, she took power in this situation. The pictures that hung in her house explain her upbringing and answered questions for the community. There is a picture of “Miss Emily, a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door”, and a “crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier” (Faulkner) . This shows the influence that Emily’s father had over her as an innocent little child, he was the ruler and the powerful one. There was a door in which no one had opened in over forty years, that had to be forced opened. “They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it” (Faulkner).

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In “Barn Burning” we meet a young Sarty who is an afraid young child, he is small, has patched and faded jeans that are too small for him. He is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He has to make the difficult decision of loyalty to family and loyalty to honor and justice. Sarty’s father, Abner, was a mercenary during the Civil War. Abner is not a good influence on Sarty and his siblings. Abner does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and he doesn’t care who he hurts or what the cost is. He is an angry, jealous, vindictive, and bitter individual due to his position in society. He is stiff-bodied and bitter, because he walks with a limp that he received from getting shot while trying to steal a horse for money, during the Civil War. He supports his family by sharecropping, which isn’t the best source of income. Sarty knows his Abner is burning barns, he does this to show his power, he does this to destroy anyone that has wronged him. He burns the barns because they hold the livestock and crops that the farmers need to provide for their families to survive. Sarty wants to turn his father in but, Abner reminds Sarty that “You go to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you”. This is a very difficult ten-year-old child to be in. He ends up making the ultimate decision and betraying his father. Therefore, freeing the family, however they are still alone.

Emily and Sarty’s financial status were drastically different. Emily started off as a wealthy woman in Jefferson. However, that did start to decline after the Civil War. Emily refuses to accept that her wealth and social status in the town is declining. She was more than likely born into this status; she did inherit the house. Sarty unfortunately, was on the other side of the spectrum. His family was unbelievably poor. They are a sharecropper family. Sarty is a small child with uncombed hair, patched, faded jeans that are too small for him. Both of the main characters financial status has been influenced by their fathers.

The fathers in both stories have an immense amount of control over the main characters, which lasts throughout the characters lifetime. The control that Emily’s father had, ultimately passed onto her as well. Everyone in the town was afraid of her, they waited until she was decently in the ground before they opened the door in the house. Did Emily kill her father as well? Abner was a very negative influence in Sarty’s life, and Sarty knew that, even though he tried to change it, he had to make a difficult decision which means he would end up betraying his father in the end. The fathers symbolize power over innocent lives, which ultimately leads to their own demise one way or another.

Works Cited

  1. Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, Compact Edition, by Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig, Pearson, 2015, pp. 96–100.
  2. Faulkner, William. “Barn Burning.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, Compact Edition, by Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig, Pearson, 2015, pp. 462-472.
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