What are the differences in setting of Faulkner's "Barn Burning", "The Lottery" and "A Rose for Miss Emily"?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Barn Burning" takes place in late February-early March in the year, the time of corn harvesting, in 1895. There are two settings for Faulkner's short story. The first is not specified, but it is in the rural South, probably Mississippi, Faulkner's home state and the setting of part two, Faulkner's fictional and often used Yoknapatawpha County. The reader knows the date of the action from putting together just a couple of puzzle pieces: 

First, we know that Sarty's father spent "four years in the woods hiding from all men, blue or gray" during the Civil War. We know that thirty years have since passed, as the narrator describes Abner "walking a little stiffly from where a Confederate provost's man's musket ball had taken him in the heel on a stolen horse thirty years ago." The Civil War took place in 1865, so if thirty years have passed, it is 1895. 

The physical settings include the "court" being held in a storefront, the de Spain mansion, and the "unpainted two-room house" in which the Snopes family lives. 

"A Rose for Emily," also by Faulkner, is likewise set in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Like much of Faulkner's modernist style, the setting as far as time goes, jumps around, in this case back and forth from about 1861, the year of Emily Grierson's birth, to her death in 1935. Emily is "over thirty" when she buys the rat poison used to kill Homer, and she dies forty years later, marking her at around 74 years of age at her death. 

The physical settings for the story are the "falling monument," the Grierson home, the druggist's shop, and the streets of the town where Homer briefly courted Miss Emily, the only time she ever held her "head high." 

The setting of the "The Lottery" is an unspecified small town in rural America in what is likely, and what was then, contemporary times, 1948. Jackson uses this seemingly-bucolic setting to explore the evil that she feels lies just below the surface of all mankind, a conclusion that she came to in the wake of World War II. 

The physical setting of the story is the town's square. It is the "the morning of June 27th," the weather is "clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers  were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green." An idyllic day for a terrible "ritual," the entire story takes place in this ironic space. 

Read the study guide:
The Lottery

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