Grotesque Themes In William Faulkner's Barn Burning

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Though “Barn Burning” appears to be a strange story with little value at first glance, it actually withholds a great deal of significance. In fact, the story’s oddities contribute to its literary value. The grotesque elements create mystery, leading an audience to seek for meaning. William Faulkner designed the story in a way that forces readers to search for an answer, rather than blatantly displaying said answer. The main theme, literary device, and style of “Barn Burning” all come together to create not just a simple, easily interpreted short story, but a story with true depth and value. In “Barn Burning,” the theme of loyalty and betrayal contribute greatly to the main conflict of the short story. With immense pressure from his…show more content…
Gothic and modern themes prevail in “Barn Burning.” In Abner Faulkner displays grotesque characteristics such as an unhealthy desire to burn and a physical handicap from the war. Abner also personifies loss of traditional values in the South during the early 1900s, which ties to modernism. Faulkner used his writing to comment on the new era, and it is obvious that he was not fond of it. Additionally, Faulkner’s sentences stretch for paragraphs at a time, jumping from one topic to another. These sentences often illustrate a character’s every thought. William Faulkner writes in “Barn Burning,” “. . . this, the cheese which he knew he smelled and the hermetic meat which his intestines believed he smelled coming in intermittent gusts momentary and brief between the other constant one, the smell and sense just a little of fear. . .” (Faulkner 1). Sarty’s feelings and thoughts are incredibly lifelike, even from the beginning of the story. Sarty causes readers to feel tremendously sympathetic not only due to his situation itself, but his early loss of innocence. Faulkner promptly creates an authentic character, leading readers to relate to him and therefore feel his emotions more intensely. In an article called “Barn Burning” Joseph C. Murphy writes, “‘Barn Burning’ reflects Faulkner’s concern with representing the complexity of consciousness, here the divided consciousness of a boy torn between…show more content…
These elements fail to resemble most mainstream literature, but the capriciousness of it all plays a large role in the lesson. “Barn Burning” does not only teach about morality, but what it takes to achieve and conserve it. A reader cannot simply understand all of the story’s mystery without carefully breaking down the elements. William Faulkner proves that a lesson that requires work is truly a genuine learning experience, as it makes a lasting
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