Barn Burning Social Class Theme

Barn Burning Social Class Theme-81
Look at an episode from William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning”: The nights were still cool and they had a fire against it, a rail lifted from a nearly fence and cut into lengths—a small fire, neat, niggard almost, a shrewd fire; such fires were his father’s habit and custom always, even in freezing weather.Older, the boy might have remarked this and wondered why not a big one; why should not a man who had not only seen the waste and extravagance of war, but who had in his blood an inherent voracious prodigality with material not his own, have burned everything in sight?For example, the fire is described as “neat,” “niggard,” and “shrewd”; the fires are his father’s “habit and custom always”; in his father’s blood there is an “inherent voracious prodigality with material not his own”; the fire is the “living fruit of nights” to help his father to pass the four years of the Civil War; the fire speaks to “some deep mainspring of his father’s being…the one weapon for the preservation of integrity.” Such words, chosen with precision, aim to explain why fire is important to his father’s being and how he develops that character in his life. Syntactically, the sentences are long and complex with many clauses and phrases as modifiers, showing again Faulkner’s effort to use as accurate words and appropriate syntax as possible to reveal the father to readers.

Look at an episode from William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning”: The nights were still cool and they had a fire against it, a rail lifted from a nearly fence and cut into lengths—a small fire, neat, niggard almost, a shrewd fire; such fires were his father’s habit and custom always, even in freezing weather.Older, the boy might have remarked this and wondered why not a big one; why should not a man who had not only seen the waste and extravagance of war, but who had in his blood an inherent voracious prodigality with material not his own, have burned everything in sight?For example, the fire is described as “neat,” “niggard,” and “shrewd”; the fires are his father’s “habit and custom always”; in his father’s blood there is an “inherent voracious prodigality with material not his own”; the fire is the “living fruit of nights” to help his father to pass the four years of the Civil War; the fire speaks to “some deep mainspring of his father’s being…the one weapon for the preservation of integrity.” Such words, chosen with precision, aim to explain why fire is important to his father’s being and how he develops that character in his life. Syntactically, the sentences are long and complex with many clauses and phrases as modifiers, showing again Faulkner’s effort to use as accurate words and appropriate syntax as possible to reveal the father to readers.

Commenting on the mixed consciousness of the two narrators, James Ferguson writes, “The tensions between the awareness of the boy and the information supplied by the authorial voice undergird and emphasize the conflicts between youth and age, innocence and sophistication, intuition and abstraction, decency and corruption, all of which lie at the core of the work” (96).

Thus the two perceptions and styles complement and enrich each other, helping readers to gain a deep insight into his father’s psyche.

Often style comes last on the list, and when it finally gets its turn for discussion, the class is almost approaching its end, leaving little or almost no time to analyze the author’s use of language, thus leading to students’ neglect or ignorance in this very important aspect of the story. Without a good understanding of it, students’ understanding of the story’s other elements is hampered.

In this short essay, I’d like to share some of my experiences in teaching style in short stories.

Faulkner also uses several figures of speech in the passage.

For example, he personifies the fire as “neat, niggard, and shrewd,” a characteristic similar to that of his father who, before he commits his last burning, is “still in the hat and coat, at once formal and burlesque as though dressed carefully for some shabby and ceremonial violence” (249).

Su shares his approach to bringing students’ attention to style in fiction with William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” as an example.

When discussing a short story, students usually understand the literary elements such as conflicts, characters, setting, point of view, theme, and style.

Third and the most important, students do not have the terms or vocabulary to discuss style.

The limited knowledge they have about grammar and punctuation is not enough to help them appreciate the author’s literary language and be able to discuss its effectiveness and creativity.

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Comments Barn Burning Social Class Theme

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    Marx believed that being born in one social class determined one's thoughts and actions. Marx also. In “Barn Burning,” the central theme is class conflict. In fact.…

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