In tone and style, how does "Barn Burning" compare to "A Rose for Emily"?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"A Rose for Emily" is a bit more experimental with POV.  Faulkner uses a first person plural narrator who could be either a group of men from the town, a group of women from the town, or both.  Regardless, these are outside narrators. They do not have access to Emily and her secret bedroom. She is a gothic mystery to them.

As such, they are unreliable narrators. They tell the story from a limited perspective: one of rumors, hearsay, and gossip.  Their story is episodic and non-linear: it begins with her death and works full circle back to it and Homer's.

"Barn Burning" is told in a third-person POV, but from Sarty's angle.  This Sarty-based narration is much more reliable because it gives us an inside perspective: we see into the Snopes family.  We have complete access to Sarty and his father's secret (he's a barn burner).  In this way, there is no mystery or dramatic irony regarding Abner.  The mystery lies with Sarty: will he stay with the family or go?

In sum, both stories rely on "perspectivism": Faulker's technique of shifting narrative structure according to time, place, and space.  But "Barn Burning" is much more controlled than the experimental "A Rose for Emily."


cmcqueeney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both "Barn Burning" and "A Rose for Emily" are developed through a point of view that enables the story to slowly progress as the reader puts together clues provided by the narrator. These clues, or foreshadowing, are another similarity.  "Barn" is told from the perspective of a ten year old boy trying to deal with his family and the community; "Rose" is told from the point of view of the community trying to figure out what to do with Miss Emily.  This difference sets up the similarity that both stories employ the theme of the individual vs. the community.

In addition, the main characters, Sarty and Miss Emily, struggle with a loyalty to their fathers which controls and destroys their lives.  In the end, both characters end up betraying this loyalty and acting against their fathers. Both main characters also harbor a family secret - Miss Emily hides a dead body; Sarty initially hides his father's arson.

Finally, the settings of both stories are very similar.  The settings focus on the decline of the South which was common in many Faulkner works. Faulkner himself lived in Mississippi, and he used his location to create a model for his short stories.  Also, Faulkner created the Snopes family and other characters who he referenced in most of his short stories.  The common setting and his development of this family contribute to many of the similarities found in his works.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In terms of style, Faulkner weaved into both stories his observations of how the Civil War and Reconstruction created an American South in which some people had trouble reconciling past and present.

Abner Snopes is a white man who lives the life of a sharecropper: a vocation constructed to keep farmers impoverished with no way to move up economically or socially. He is chronically angry about his station in life and lashes out again and again in self-defeating acts that take his family down with him. Literary critics suggest that the final victim of his anger, Major de Spain, represents a mixed-race person who outranks Snopes, economically and socially, and deepens his anger and feeling that, as a white Southerner, he should not be at the mercy of someone like de Spain.

Emily Grierson, too, has trouble accepting social changes in the South. She prefers to live in the past when her family was wealthy and socially prominent and her life had a genteel rhythm. Like Abner Snopes, she cannot reconcile how the South has moved on, and the target of her rage becomes Homer Barron, the Yankee man whom she sees as failing to properly value her reputation and social standing.

In both stories, the characters who represent unadaptable personalities must die, as new generations replace them and bring modern ideas and values. In this way, the stories are tonally similar.

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Barn Burning

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