Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” are both 1930s stories. However, the authors’ stylistic innovations significantly differ since they address distinct themes in the early twentieth century. One of the crucial differences is evident in the compositions and literary styles the author’s highlight. Although both Hemingway and Faulkner’s stories portray life as meaningless and full of inescapable misery, Faulkner demonstrates that death surpasses the despair that robs individuals of happiness.
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Hemingway emphasizes that life is inherently meaningless, while Faulkner argues that death helps overcome desolation. Notably, Hemingway demonstrates the theme of existentialism using the aged client drinking alone in the café. The customer has “plenty of money,” enjoys the company of his niece, and once had a wife (Hemingway, 1933). However, none of these accomplishments makes him happy since he attempts suicide – which assures him damnation. On the contrary, Faulkner posits that despair originates from one’s choices. Conflict and violence surround the Snopes because they do not want to testify that Abner Snopes is a serial arsonist. The family is evicted from their former residence after Abner burns a neighbor’s barn. Eventually, Abner’s son sets the family free by betraying his father’s intention of burning Major de Spain’s (their new host) barn (Faulkner, 1938). De Spain kills Abner; thus, giving the Snopes the freedom to live peacefully. The bottom line is that Faulkner argues that death can achieve a meaningful life, while Hemingway paints life’s vanity as inevitable and irresolvable.
Although the 1930s authors portrayed life as meaningless and full of inescapable despair, Faulkner disagrees with this theme since he demonstrates that death could restore normality among the lost generations. “Barn Burning” illustrates this theme with the death of Abner. He denied his family peace through his arson behavior, violence, and unnecessary conflict with the neighbors. His death set his family free, as they would not have to hide his criminal behavior, face impromptu banishment, or even pay penalties for their father. Hemingway contrasts life’s vanity using the old customer’s suicide attempt – he would have been condemned to hell instead of getting an excellent after-life. Further, he relied on brightly-lit cafes to keep him happy overnight, although none of the enterprises operate overnight.
Faulkner, W. (1938). Barn burning. [PDF document].
Hemingway, E. (1933). A clean, well-lighted place [PDF document]. ScriptorPress.