What are the main similarities in the themes of A Farewell to Arms and "Barn Burning"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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While the backgrounds are different, there are a number of thematic elements that, though different, have similar meaning because they overlap or relate to each other. In Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, war is a dominant theme. In Faulkner's "Barn Burning" anger and hatred are dominant themes. While war is on a large scale that involves governments and universal questions of moral right and wrong, it is undeniably true that the individuals in the war face anger and hatred and individualistic questions of moral right and wrong. Therefore, this is an instance in which, though the themes are different, they overlap with similar thematic elements.

Another different yet similar set of themes is patriotism from Hemingway's story and loyalty and betrayal from Faulkner's story. Patriotism involves loyalty and devotion to one's country; one is a traitor if one betrays one's country. In Heminway's story, the blind loyalty of patriotism to a country's wars is questioned by Frederick on moral grounds. In Faulkner's, Sarty renounces blind loyalty to family on grounds that crime and violence are immoral, regardless of his father's principle of for "mine and hisn both."

He did not knock, he burst in, sobbing for breath, incapable for the moment of speech; he saw the astonished face of the Negro in the linen jacket without knowing when the Negro had appeared.

"De Spain!" he cried, panted. "Where's…" then he saw the white man too emerging from a white door down the hall. "Barn!" he cried. "Barn!"

In Hemingway's story, identity and individualism are explored. In Faulkner's, Sarty's alienation and loneliness are explored. Sarty is liberated from the loneliness and alienation that his family impose upon him when he begins to find his own identity. Conversely, in Hemingway's, Frederick loses his individualism when his identity becomes entangled with Catherine's: "I want you so much I want to be you too."

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