Comparing Barn Burning and Paul's Case


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Barn Burning and Paul's Case

 

The stories "Barn Burning" written by William Faulkner and "Paul's Case" written by Willa Cather both have two separate characters with very similar troubles. Each has a uniquely sad narrative. "Barn Burning" is a sad story because it not only shows the classical struggle between the underprivileged and the privileged classes, but also the struggle between a father and his son, Sarty. Together, these two boys share comparable lifestyles. Each has conflicts with his father, fantasize of a wealthier existence, and flee from the tribulations in his life.

 

Sarty's main dilemma is his loyalty to his family, which collides with his disappointment and suppressed dislike for his own father. He tends to hide his feelings by denying the facts, "our enemy he thought in that despair: ourn! mine and his both! He's my father!" (Faulkner 171). Sarty appears to be fearful of his father: "If I would have said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have hit me again. But now he said nothing. He was not crying. He jut stood there." (Faulkner 173)

 

In comparison, Paul and his father also have conflicts and Paul too seems to be afraid of his own father. He decides that he would much rather spend the night in the cellar of his house than go inside and face his father. Paul does not feel as much at home when he is at his father's house as he does at Carnegie Hall where he works as an usher and spends most of his time. Paul's teachers and his father believe his working at the theater affects his schooling. As a result, Paul's father takes him out of school and forces him to work for a company referred to only as the firm of Denny and Carson as an office boy.

 

Paul's dream to live like the stars is taken away when his father forbids him to work, visit, or go anywhere near the theater. It is at Carnegie Hall that Paul became struck by the glitter and the starlight of the stage. He is not star struck in the sense that he wanted to perform in any way; he is simply content to observe others' performances.

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He is struck in the sense that he wants to live the way the characters in the plays do. He imagines them living to all the extent of their money, glutting on beautiful music, art, and life.

 

Sarty, like Paul, is somewhat materialistic. He dreams of a large house and the comfort of money. He desires to be in a higher-class distinction despite his father's bitterness regarding the upper class. Sarty views the de Spain mansion as a citadel protected against momentary stings from his father, "the buzzing wasp." (Faulkner 174) His father sees the house as "pretty and white," built on "sweat, nigger sweat. Maybe it ain't white enough yet to suit him. Maybe he (de Spain) wants to mix some white sweat with it." (Faulkner 175)

 

Paul pocketed nearly one thousand dollars from the cash in the deposit belonging to the company his father made him work for. His dream is shorted by his crime when the story of his theft and his father's search is published in quite a few large newspapers. Instead of facing his crimes and his father, he jumps in front of a train, thereby, of course, committing suicide.

 

Paul's last thoughts are on the things that he will never get to do, because he ended it all before his time.

 

Like Paul, Sarty runs away from the only life he has ever known and all of his family. Sarty wants to live out his dream, which consists of a moral life according to his own values.

 


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