“A Rose for Emily” and “Barn Burning” William Faulkner’s short stories often focus on the implications of a change of life for the people of the South of America. Faulkner’s stories seek to understand the effects of the abolition of slavery upon the psyche of Americans.
For this purpose, Faulkner employs allegory. He presents in certain individuals, like Emily Grierson, the qualities that made many people of the Old South misfit in modern America. They then become the symbols and embodiments of the Southern ways of life in an allegorical manner in stories like “A Rose for Emily”.
These aspects of Faulkner’s tales are present even in “Barn Burning”. Faulkner here talks about Abner Snopes whose refusal to change and be constructive leads to the alienation of his son. Change is what is necessary, according to Faulkner, so as to maintain the equilibrium in society.
Faulkner employs methods of chronicling the thoughts of the characters in his story to make clear their mental conditions. While Colonel Sartoris Snopes’ mental state is revealed directly by the narrator, Emily Grierson’s state is revealed through an account of an unnamed narrator, presumably a member of Grierson’s village. The communal character of their identities makes clear the allegorical nature of these tales.
Faulkner destabilizes notions of masculinized societies through these tales. He talks of Abner and Sarty Snopes, both of whom would not fit into any conventional stereotype of masculinity. The decline of Emily Grierson is also a part of this.
Faulkner’s tales are a parody of those who refuse to accept socio-political changes and adapt to them. They are not, however, a mockery of dissent but of orthodoxy. This lends a non-conservative touch to Faulkner’s stories.
“Barn Burning” and “A Rose for Emily” are thus, indictments of conservative Southern American societies and also orthodoxies in general.
Faulkner, William. “Barn Burning.” Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner. New York: The Modern Library, 1993. Print
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily”. xroads.virginia.edu.Web