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A Comparison of Two Characters in A Rose for Emily and Barn Burning

A Comparison of Two Characters in A Rose for Emily and Barn Burning

In “A Rose for Emily” and “Barn Burning,” William Faulkner creates two characters worthy of comparison. Emily Grierson, a recluse from Jefferson, Mississippi, is an important figure in the town, despite spending most of her life in seclusion. On the contrary, Abner Snopes is a loud, fiery-tempered man that most people tend to avoid. If these characters are judged by reputation and outward appearance only, the conclusion would be that Emily Grierson and Abner Snopes are complete opposites. However, despite the external differences, these two characters have surprisingly similar personalities.

First of all, Emily Grierson and Abner Snopes have very different backgrounds. Emily Grierson is born to a wealthy family, referred to as the “high and mighty Griersons” (50). She lives in an elegant and large house, rebuilt after the Civil War. Her house is set in the heart of what was once the most elite area of Jefferson. She spends almost all of her life inside this house, coming outside its walls only on rare occasions. Yet the townspeople are always concerned with Miss Emily, as she is the last Grierson. They are interested in what is going on with her, constantly putting together the pieces of her life. However, no matter how much the people piece together the events, few know Miss Emily at all. Upon her death, she is said to be a “fallen monument” (47) because she was so idolized throughout her life. On the contrary, Abner Snopes is at the other end of the social scale. He is in the lowest class. As a tenant farmer, Abner lives a life almost like that of a slave. He works continuously from day to day, living with his family in small shacks that “ain’t fitten for hawgs”(7). He is itinerant and never has any money. Abner constantly displays his lack of decency and rude manners. He is considered a menace wherever he goes, and no one has any interest in getting to know such a foul and arrogant man. Even though they are at the extreme ends of the social spectrum, Emily Grierson and Abner Snopes have something in common-they are both outsiders in the communities they live in.

Colonel Grierson limits the people Miss Emily is allowed to see and to the point that she has no friends or even acquaintances.

The Rebirth of Ignatius in The Confederacy of Dunces

The Rebirth of Ignatius in The Confederacy of Dunces

“You learnt everything, Ignatius, except how to be a human being” (375). Chained to a dominant character who is so vast and yet so embryonic that he is not only protagonist but also, in many ways, his own antagonist, The Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, has been called “a broad satirical view of the modern world” (Holditch “Introduction” The Neon Bible xi). Since this short definition fails to explain that the view presented is primarily that of the slug-like character of Ignatius Jacques Reilly, it also fails to take into account that one’s view from the womb is, of necessity, somewhat limited. Although Ignatius is thirty years old and has a Master’s Degree, he is so emotionally unprepared for life that he hides in the safety and sanctuary of his womb-like bedroom, anxiously peers out at the world around him, and condemns all that he sees. As observed from this view, the world does, indeed, appear to be a fearful place.

Having lost faith in modern religion at a young age, Ignatius claims to embrace a medieval worldview in which fate rather than free will is mandated. Like Oedipus, Ignatius attempts to evade his destiny, but rather than trying to run from it, and thus, running right into it as did Oedipus, Ignatius attempts to hide from his fate by refusing life, itself. Afraid of both life and death, Ignatius lives in a Limbo of his own devising. In his writings, Ignatius declares, “‘I have always been forced to exist on the fringes of society, consigned to the Limbo reserved for those who do know reality when they see it'” (30). Of course, in rejecting his own possibilities to participate actively in determining the outcome of events in…

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…res a jump-start–a massive jolt of terror-inspired impulses. Ignatius now reaches such a moment when his life is charged by this powerful psychological and physiological impetus.

In spite of the fear which propels him, there is finally hope for Ignatius. Waddling fearfully into the world, he can now learn to accept his common fate with the rest of humanity–his own humanness and inherent vulnerability in a world over which he has no control. In her frustration and resignation, Ignatius’ little mother, an unusual Earth Mother at best, once sadly and plaintively tells her son, “You learnt everything, Ignatius, except how to be a human being” (375). Therein lies a lesson for us all.

Works Cited

Holditch, W. Kenneth. The Neon Bible. Grove Press: New York, 1989.

Toole, John Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces. Grove Weidenfeld: New York, 1980.

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