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Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”: Southern Gothic Genre


“A Good Man is Hard to find” was a short story first published in 1955 and written by famous American author Flannery O’Connor. It is a part of the authors’ short stories collection of the same title. While “Barn Burning” was another short story first published in 1939 and written by American author William Faulkner. It deals with the vengeance, the influence of fathers, and class conflicts. Both short stories have their similar theme about the family of how the grandmother and Abner are responsible for their tragedy. As for their genre both share the same dark humor where both include transgressive thoughts. Additionally, both stories share the same fatal flaw in which how the family has to overcome a tragic final. Both writers have great respect in Southern Gothic literature. Flannery O’Connor was an American essayist, short story writer and novelist who wrote the number of commentaries and reviews, as well as thirty-two short stories and two novels. Her writings often revolve around violent situations, grotesque characters and regional settings. Actually, she was a Southern author who frequently wrote in a sardonic Southern Gothic style. On the other hand, the second short story author William Cuthbert Faulkner was a Nobel laureate American writer who wrote plays, essays, poetry, screenplays, short stories and novels. He is documented as the most celebrated writer in the literature world, especially in Southern literature.

Body: Compare and Contrast

The prime aim of this essay is to conduct compare and contrast analysis of these two stories from the perspective of Southern Gothic elements where Southern Gothic is documented as a subpart of the Gothic writing in the American genre that takes place in the American South. It combines the elements of romance, tragedies, exaggerations, and dark humor. The Southern Gothic literature set of characteristics is much more than the use of country-folk lifestyle, barn raised corn-fed and southern dialects. Though the characteristics are apparently loose with the perspective of literature as a whole, they are certainly leading in works of this sub-genre. Both Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” are perfect models of the Southern Gothic in that they offer; violence, figurative or literal imprisonment, pivotal characters outside the norm and a sense of place.

A comprehensive element of Southern Gothic literature is the use of a “pivotal character or someone close to them who is set apart from the world by a disability or odd way of seeing the world (Oprah).” As per my understanding, it can be more efficiently read if someone goes further with it and indicate that these diverse ways of observing the all God’s creatures originated from difficult situations or predicaments, “Gothic novels display the reactions of their characters to trying or appalling situations (Hume).” In “Barn Burning,” Abner is apparently a pyromaniac with slight control over his irritation. After a keen evaluation of literature, I observe that it is essential to highlight the “freakishness” in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” as Oprah’s Distinguishing Features article sketched.

Both stories demonstrate how both characters are described as selfish and manipulative. Seen in the part of how the father in the story of “Barn Burning” try to manipulate his son, “You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you aren’t going to have any blood to stick to you” (Faulkner 165). This is a way of manipulating in which he is trying to make his son feel responsible to stay with his family and not to give them his back because it is his blood and he needs to respect that. While in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, the grandmother is being manipulative in where she is saying,” I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it” (O’Conner 430). This part is demonstrating how the grandmother is manipulating by not wanting to take her children to a criminal like Misfit but is interesting because later she does exactly this. The grandmother is the type of person that makes lies in order to get what she wants,” There was a secret panel in this house” (O’Conner 433). She lied wanting to make this a reason to still go to the house and as for this is demonstrating the way she is using this lie in order to get what she wants. On the other hand, in the story “Barn Burning” the father is portrayed as “horse trader,” though he was more than a horse stealer, “the table wherein Justice sat/ his father and his father’s enemy (our enemy he thought in that despair, ourn! Mine and hisn both! He’s my father!) Stood” (Faulkner 162). He is been marc more than someone that steals but more like someone that fought for money rather than loyalty. Both characters Abner from “Barn Burning” and the grandmother from “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” really did not change throughout the story. They remain the same selfish and manipulative characters.

In the Story of Barn Burning by William Faulkner we can describe all the main parts that actually mean something special to the author or it’s trying to say something deep. Furthermore, we could find the fire as a symbol of revenge and destruction “wood and hay kin burn, that night barn burn” (Faulkner 2). This an example that fire could be damaging to a person’s personal stuff because if we take a look in the story, the owner of the barn had the trauma of his barn being burn because he harms the character’s persona or did something mean to Abner. As the story goes, in the middle of the story Abner had the reputation of being a troublemaker and this an example of how his reputation affects him, and it states “Barn Burner” (Faulkner 2). Essentially, now he considered a maniac or a person who seeks revenge and that the symbol of fire means the payback and the destruction of somebody.

Another example of the fire symbol is that it represents masculinity and we could actually see it on Abner, because of all the braveness he has to confront the people that do harm to him and his family. Accordingly, in a text, it shows that Abner shows his courage and masculinity towards the life events that he is experiencing and here is an example “outrageous voice, still rang, and repercussed” (Faulkner 3). It actually gives a brief model of how Abner is with all the authority he has and that his showing dominance. On the other hand, Abner character reckless (behavior that is characteristic of or appropriate to animals, particularly in being physical and instinctive). The character has this behavior that wants him to do harm to the people without thinking about the actions, and the consequences. As we along, the story has the view of seen Abner as the bad character and this states that he takes revenge on everything they to him, “you must realize you have ruined that rug” (Faulkner 4).

Although, i can make a connection with the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by saying that the actions of the grandma by calling her an old lady and this is an example of a symbol that her grandkids do not really like her and she is more a hated character inside the story, and we could contrast that both had something in common. Nonetheless, the grandma had trouble controlling herself by just trying to play the tough character, and we could say that it is the same as Abner with reckless behavior, she did not quite think that everything she has done could later bring her trouble. However, i found a quote where we could find the symbol and The Misfit was talking to her and said this “ God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy’s heart was pure gold”(O’Connor 7). As far, The Misfit said to her something deep that had an impact on the grandma and it was relating the symbol to God or he was talking in a sarcastic way. In the conclusion of the symbol part, we could say that both stories had many symbols that help us understand what objects had a major impact. Similarly, both stories have an epiphany, because both characters realize, that he/she are experiencing something deep or that both had open their eyes and face the consequences, and the first start with Barn Burning, as the main character has trouble controlling himself with all the anger that he has, I would be focusing on Sarty who is Abner’s son.


Finally, these two works are an example of Southern Gothic literature. Both stories share a similar conflict in which both characters are responsible for their cause and, we can see the way of how both share a similar personality of selfishness and manipulative. However, the character from “Barn Burning” Abner is more of an impulsive and ambitious while the grandmother in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is a bit of loudmouth and superficial. The way of how both authors share so many similarities and differences their stories are particularly amazed by the way of their ending one was unfinished while the other one leaves a tragic moment on which all the family is murder.

Works Cited

“Southern Gothic.” N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2010. <

Faulkner, William.  “Barn Burning.” The Bedford Anthology of American Literature.  Ed. Belasco and Johnson.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 964-976.

Hume, Robert D. “Gothic Versus Romantic: A Revaluation of the Gothic Novel.” PMLA, Vol. 84, No. 2 (Mar. 1969) 282-290. JSTOR. WEB. 8 June 2010

O’Connor, Flannery.  “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The Bedford Anthology of American Literature.  Ed. Belasco and Johnson.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 1304-1315.



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