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Primary Conflicts Compared In Faulkner's "Barn Burning" And Godwin's "A Sorrowful Woman". Written For Rit Writing And Lit 1 Required Course.

2908 words - 12 pages

In both Barn Burning, by William Faulkner, and A Sorrowful Woman, by Gail Godwin, the primary characters are torn between external expectations, and internal desires. Although both characters share a similar experience, they resolve their conflict in very different manners. Sarty, from Barn Burning, breaks from his family, betraying his father, and beginning a new life for himself. The protagonist of A Sorrowful Woman is unable to bear the strain of her situation and chooses death as an escape.In Barn Burning, we are introduced to Sarty as he sits in a general store that has been converted into a courtroom. In this initial paragraph, we begin to see that which will embroil Sarty throughout the story, the conflict between filial duty and his own conscience. As he crouches on his nail kegs, hoping to fly beneath the radar, he analyzes the scents in the air, described by Faulkner as"the cheese which he knew he smelled, and the hermetic meat which his intestines believed he smelled coming in intermittent gusts between the other constant one, the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood." (493).Like an animal, Sarty is scenting the air in order to make sense of a confusing situation. He doesn't truly seem to understand the situation, but he recognizes the conflict, and feels despair. In this initial paragraph, he chooses to side with family, reminding himself that his father's enemy is also "our enemy?ourn! Mine and hisn both! He's my father!"(493).Though he tries to side with his father, when he is asked to take the stand as a witness, he begins to feel the pressure of conflict again. While walking to the front of the room, beneath the palpable gaze of the town and judge, he panics. Faulkner writes "He aims for me to lie, he thought, again with that frantic grief and despair. And I will have to do hit."(494). Although his father's actions are distasteful to him, Abner has engendered such fear in his son that he is nearly willing to lie for him. His panic leaves him speechless, trapped in the moment of his choice. Luckily, his father's enemy, Harris, can't bring himself to question a terrified boy, and drops him as a witness. Once again, Sarty returns to the reality of the courtroom, smelling once again the "cheese and sealed meat, the fear and despair, and the old grief of blood"(Faulkner 494). The expression "the old grief of blood" seems to refer more to the inherent conflict with his father than with the actual scent of blood spilled. Sarty is the black sheep of his family, the only one unable to tolerate Abner's behavior, but powerless, at least at this point, to change the situation.Later, as the family leaves for their new home, he hopes that his father will cease his vengeance and allow him relief from his internal war. In his way, Abner does attempt to stop his son's struggle later that night as the family stops to camp. After supper, his father pulls him aside, beats him, and...

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