William Faulkners The Bear and Barn Burning: A Comparison
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William Faulkner’s The Bear and Barn Burning are two different short stories, but are very much alike in several ways. The theme in both gravitates toward the finding one’s self theme, where both the main characters must find themselves amidst many different circumstances. Faulkner also portrays the main characters in each story much the same. There is a difference in the tone between the two stories however, proving that he can write two different stories, but put in many similarities.
Finding your true self in a complicated world is the theme of many stories, and The Bear and Barn Burning are no exceptions. In The Bear, the main character, whom remains nameless, finds himself in a forest, alone, and faced with a tough decision. Sarty, the main character from Barn Burning, finds his true self, alone, having just faced a tough decision, in the wilderness, much like the other boy. Even though both boys faced some obstacles they learned skills from each of their experiences. Sarty learned he must get away from his family to live a good life, and the other boy learned the hunt and track like men twice his age. Each boy learned lessons and life long skills that helped create their true, adult selves.
Faulkner portrays each of the characters in a different light, with different circumstances, but both possess many of the same traits. Sarty comes from a very poor family, while the other boy comes from a well off family, as they have a cabin they can hunt from, and Sarty does not have a place to live. In each short story, the boys give up something they love or greatly desire. The Boy gave up a bear that had been hunted for generations, and Sarty gave up his family. They both became adults by choosing their own paths and not following their fathers. The Boy’s father would have shot the bear if he had the chance, and if Sarty stayed in his family, he could possibly become a barnburner and cheat like his father and brother.
A very hostile environment prevails in Barn Burning, while a relaxed one shines through in The Bear. Faulkner’s use of nigger, the constant berating of the family and abuse make the story have a harsh tone, and it remains the same until the end. In the other story, dogs bark from the depths of the forest, while quietness and a relaxing air emanate from the pages.