Sun as Foreshadow to Murder

During the sixth chapter the diction about the sun foreshadows Meursault’s murder of the Arab man. At the beginning of the chapter Meursault says “The day, already bright with sun, hit my like a slap in the face” (47). Meursault is then on annoyed at many little things that are going on around him like Raymond’s outfit and then there is a mention of the Arabs watching them get on the bus. Then on page 52, “The sun was shining almost directly overhead onto the sand, and the glare on the water was unbearable”. Soon after they encounter the two Arab men but because of the use of the word unbearable and that Meursault does not heavily denounce the sun yet is foreshadow to the the men escaping. On page 55 Meursault says, “By now the sun was overpowering. It shattered into little pieces on the sand and water” and when Meursault takes Raymond’s gun to head to the beach, “There was the same dazzling red glare” (57). Meursaults language about the sun becomes more and more intense as he nears the murder. Then during the scene when he is fighting the Arab man he describes personifies the light as cutting into his forehead and the light is crashing down on him, cutting and stabbing into his eyes (59). This intense, vivid imagery about the sun foreshadows Meursault shooting him. The sun plays a role in foreshadowing Meursault shooting the man but could also play a role in killing itself.

Repetitive life

In Camus’s short essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, Cumus argues that a human’s life is similar to sisyphus’ life. You get up, go to a job you’ve been working at most of your life, and do the same thing every day. I disagree with this argument because I don’t believe everyone leads a repetitive life. For example, a man might go to work, and go home to his family at night. He might play with his son or daughter, talk his wife, do chores, but every day will be different and will require different actions. Another example is a personal habit. Say a young boy’s habit is to play baseball, and play it everyday religiously. Every day that boy plays baseball he might hit a home run, strike out every chance he gets, or make every single clutch play. But, every single game he plays is different, and he is always improving his craft forcing change in his actions over time.

In all, The myth of sisyphus represents the torture of repetitiveness. I believe that nobody chooses to lead a repetitive life because people are always changing.

Smile at the Little Things

Albert Camus brings up an interesting viewpoint of the meaning of life in his argument within Myth of Sisyphus. While reading, I reflected his proposal for why Sisyphus is actually content with his punishment by the Gods. Sisyphus is punished by the Gods with the task of pushing a enormous stone up a hill, all for it to fall back down, and thus Sisyphus must start again. At first, I believed that this would be an extremely challenging and horrible punishment because the person works so hard to complete something but can never quite finish the task. As a perfectionist and goal-oriented person, not being able to successfully bring the stone up the hill without it rolling back down would strike up an excessive amount of anxiety and anger to myself mentally.

What I had not thought about before Camus’s synopsis was that he mentions how his punishment includes several of the wonderful amenities Earth provides including the stone and hill. I believe that Albert Camus argues that since Sisyphus can control his punishment, embrace his fate, and recognizes the amazing objects Earth provides us, Sisyphus is happy.

This allowed for myself to reflect on all of the amazing things that surrounds my everyday life and all the little things I take for granted. The small cherishes of accomplishing and experiencing life.

Although this is not exactly what Camus was stating or trying to prove, my reflection brought me to the ponderous question; what is the meaning of life? I could state all the big and small things that I live for including: family, friends, my future, love, etc. But I have realized that the meaning of life is subjective. Everyone is living for different reasons. It may be because of faith. Or money. Or even living to find the meaning of life. Everyone is living for their own reasons and meaning of life.

So that leads me to think why live for meaning in life in any construct you choose to live if it all ends the same? Death.

But for now, I will embrace my life and cherish everything in my life to the best of my capability.

Does Love Exist?

Love is a social construct. It exists to distract us from the absurdity of life, from the pain and suffering that we truly live through each day. It is a curtain over our eyes that covers up the truth, that life is miserable.

Who cares?

Why not be happy? Why not spend your life looking for your other half? If life is absurd anyway, why not act irrationally and continue to seek out love? The question of if love exists or is just a social construct is meaningless. We still feel the same longing for love either way. We still feel attraction and heartbreak. So why not look for love?

Meursault, Salamano, and the Foil

Camus uses other characters in his novel The Stranger to highlight Meursault’s lack of care. For example, Meursault notices a woman who sits with him as she eats at Celeste’s. In particular, he notices how she does everything with assurance. She eats purposefully, she marks her magazine completely, and she prepares her bill to the exact penny before she begins eating (43). Meursault follows her outside as she swiftly walks away, and notes how strange she is, but nothing else happens involving the lady. At first, it seems odd that Camus would add this strange detail that takes up a page of his story and appears to amount to nothing. However, the purpose of this encounter is to provide contrast to Meursault’s indifferent personality. Meursault responds to everything with short sentences that say he doesn’t really care. This lady, on the other hand, seems to care about everything she does. By including this woman into the story, Meursault’s indifference is only made clearer.

Another character that contrasts Meursault is Salamano. In the beginning of the novel, the old man seems like a bad person with no heart. He abuses his dog and calls him a “lousy bastard” all the time. However, on page 39, Meursault hears him crying after he lost his dog. Camus makes a clear point to take this character who seems heartless and give them emotions and vulnerable moments too. This surprising revelation causes the reader to wonder: if even Salamano cares about things, how come Meusault does not?

If the syntax of the novel and Meursault’s own thoughts aren’t enough to show his indifference to everything, the stark contrast between him and others completes the job.

Questionable Decision Making

As Part 1 nears a conclusion Meursault finds himself in a completely unnecessary altercation. Raymond, a neighbor of Meursault invited him over to his friends lake house. Raymond has tensions with a small group of Arabian men. Raymond physically assaulted his girlfriend when he found out she was using him, and one of the men is her brother. When on the beach near the man, Meursault says “It occurred to me that all I had to do was turn around and that would be the end of it. But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back. I took a few steps toward the spring” (Camus 58). Meursault is choosing at this point to cause problems by approaching a man equipped with a pocket knife. Meursault, however, has a gun so is at the advantage. It is puzziling why Meursault is putting himself in this situation to begin with. All for a neighbor he is barely friends with.

Meursault continues to walk towards the Arabian man. As he nears him, he gets sweat in his eyes which prevents him from seeing. Meursault then gets slashed in the face by the man. He says “The light shot off the steal and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead.” What he does next I found to be quite shocking. Rather than walking away from the situation, he chose to fight back but in the more extreme way. He fired the gun at the man. He says “Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace.” I am uncertain what the result of this will be, but I can not assume it will be good. The next few chapters will definitely be some interesting ones, and I look forward to reading them and finding out.

Your Own World

There’s no denying that our world is built atop social constructs and false systems. It makes no sense for values such as justice and love to have existed before humanity created them. Love doesn’t even have a true universal definition, so how can it be a concrete thing? Almost every person will give a different definition of what they think love is, and what they think of love is entirely based upon the love around them. It’s hardly even their own opinion.

However, if we assume that because we created the ideas of love, relationships, being a “good person,” happiness, etc. that they are not real, what is left?

We can argue that all social constructs hold us back. They limit our experiences, and in many ways, I agree with that. As society has grown, we’ve created rules that if aliens were to study our planet, they would look at in utter confusion. As we discussed in class, why must certain people dress a certain way? Or, why must we go to school for 12 years and then go on to college and potentially even graduate? What is money? What is God? Why is our world the way it is? Who decided these rules? What purpose do they actually have?

You can only reach radical subjectivity by acknowledging that our world does not operate in a sensible fashion. Things happen without reason. Even if you believe in a higher power, you must wonder how that higher power came to be? Why does the higher power not end suffering? Is a higher power who sits there while the world burns below them truly the benevolent higher power the people believe in? Why do people believe in a benevolent God at all?

Even God is not sensible.

But after you acknowledge that things happen without sense, that the world around you will act without logic, and that you are merely a grain of sand in a desert, you realize that you can act however you wish.

In doing so, you can choose to forego all previously learned constructs. You can believe that nothing is real. You can live in perfect nihilism.

Or, you can choose to make your own world. If nothing matters, can you not be your own teacher, your own government, your own prosecutor, your own God?

Thus, can you not choose to believe in nothing and everything at the same time?

If nothing is real and nothing matters, can you not choose to believe in your own versions of love, justice, and happiness? It doesn’t matter if you do or not.

Opt Out

I think of life kind of like being in high school, but if you were signed up for every single club. You graduate 8th grade and get shoved into the door of OPRF, your name on every club, group, and sport’s sign up list. From 8 am to when you go to bed, no 3:11 break, it’s all club after club. The only chance to get any free time is if you quit the club. This requires an awkward conversation with the group leader. It’s uncomfortable. It takes a lot of guts to walk up in front of the class, in front of friends, people you respect, and tell your superior that the club they run just isn’t for you.

Here’s the catch: you get re-signed up every day. Every hour. Every second.

Some clubs are easier to quit, and some are harder. It depends on your friend group, which teachers you have and which you like, what you identify as, your skin color or gender, the way you were raised. Some clubs you don’t even know you’re in. Some of them can benefit you, and those are the hardest to leave. Some don’t benefit you or harm you, but they’re comfortable. They’re all you know. Freedom, radical subjectivity, finding the true meaning of life, comes when you quit all of the clubs. When you get to go home at 3:11, that is what Camus calls freedom and happiness. Unstructured and un-systemized life.

There’s a racism club, a sexism club, a homophobia club, a xenophobia club, a club for every system, every prejudice, every discrimination – no matter how small. It’s so, so easy to stay in the club, to continue thinking the way you have been since you were born. It’s so easy to hold your privilege in your hands and simply not acknowledge it. It benefits you, it makes your life easier, so why get rid of it? Why feel guilty for it? White privilege is like that. Every day we with white privilege have to consciously make the choice to acknowledge it. We have to see it in our hands and look it straight in its face. We have to be aware of it in every word, we have to quit the club with every sentence.

It’s also easy to stay in a club that harms you. As a woman, I have never once stopped believing that all genders are equal in value, ability, and validity. Yet, as a woman, I have fallen victim to self-image issues enforced by society. I have been influenced by gender stereotypes. Quitting these clubs, the ones that target you, might seem easy. And for many, maybe it is. But the truth is that the work is grueling. Picking apart your identity and seeing what weeds have taken root there, what elements exist that you did not approve, is hard. Quitting these clubs is saying goodbye to something toxic, breaking away from a poison, yet in order to do so, you must be confident enough in yourself to know that you are different from what all of society tells you you are. That is no small task.

Opt out every day. Take your name off the sign up list every second. Maybe one day, some clubs will dissolve. It’ll get easier to opt out until it’s a subconscious process. Not all of the clubs will disappear, we’ll never be free from systems. But some of them don’t harm anyone. And the ones that do, we can burn down.

How to live

Camus’ theories of life in the “Myth of Sisyphus” better illuminates the way I see the world. Camus’ description and explanation of the “absurd man” and why the absurd man is able to get more out of life makes me realize how to live life to the fullest. Camus says Sisyphus is happy and gets more out of life because his detachment makes him have a heightened awareness that thus makes him more open to experiences. When I think about my life I like to believe I am an open minded person but my attachment to certain ideals or norms has definitely led me to decline and not pursue experiences that may have been good for me. Camus also says that the absurd man’s absolute content with what he’s doing allows him not to seek explanation or justification for what he’s doing. I think this is really important in my life and others’ as well because many people seek justification for almost everything they do and social media has just made that even worse. I think that once we learn to become less reliant on others’ views about ourselves and we stop worrying about getting validation and justification from others then we can fully live life how we want and not how we are persuaded or forced to. Camus also believes that the absurd man lives his life happily because he has no “what if’s” like normal humans, he is just 100% commitment to the task at hand. This is another key to life that I already knew but I’m still working on. Humans naturally have the fear of making the wrong decision, missing out, and obsessing over what could have been. This is usually compounded with the constant need for validation and justification and leads to unnecessary stress and torment in many people’s lives. Once a person is able to stay focus on the decision they do choose and they don’t overthink or consider the “what if’s” then they will have a much happier and much more successful life. I believe Camus’ theories of life in the “Myth of Sisyphus” are interesting, correct and have large impacts and implications in our everyday lives. I ask of you to also consider his points and be open minded to changing the way you behave and think!

Emotionless Action

Throughout Albert Camus’s novel, The Stranger, Meursault displays his lack of emotion and drive through his words and actions. In the beginning of part I, Meursault’s lack of emotions can be seen in his behavior during the time of his mother’s death. The day after his mother’s funeral, Meursault went to the beach and asked out his former coworker Marie. When she discovered his mother had passed, “She wanted to know how long ago, so I said ‘Yesterday.’ I felt like telling her it wasn’t my fault, but I stopped myself… it didn’t mean anything. Besides you always feel a little guilty”(20). Meursault told Marie his mother had died only a day before as if it had no significance whatsoever. Later in Part I, this same lack of emotions is seen when Marie asks Meursault if he wants to marry her and if he thinks marriage is serious. Meursault states “That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to”(41). Even for a notion as big as marriage, Meursault didn’t seem to care at all if he did or did not marry Marie which is very out of the norm for a typically human being. For most people, their mother’s death and their marriage/engagment are two very significant and emotional events however in Meursault’s case, he did not experience any strong opinion or feeling. This trait of Meursault could be caused by his experience in school where he states “when I was a student I had lots of ambitions like that. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered”(41). Due to this experience in his life, Meursault no longer has strong ambitions which provides some reasoning to his lack of emotion in the events occurring in his life.

Dogs are Man’s Best Friend

“The Stranger”, a novel by Albert Camus, focuses on a strange relationship between Salamano, an old man, and his dog, who suffers from mange. People say that dogs often look like their owners, this is one of those cases. In the story, Camus explains, “They look as if they belong to the same species, and yet they hate each other” (27). This comes as a bit of a shock because you would expect them to have a great bond, especially if they look similar. But as you later learn, Salamano “beats the dog and swears at it” (27).

However, this relationship of terror, from the dog, and hatred, from Salamano, is flipped upside down in the following chapters. Later, the dog is lost and the reader learns that Salamano got the dog to cure his loneliness after his wife died. He would rub his dog with ointment every day twice a day and said “he was a good dog” (45). This gives the reader more insight into their relationship and spins the perspective from an abusive and negative relationship to a loving and caring one.

Whether Salamano connects his dog to his late wife or as a life long companion, we do not know. But, Salamano does care greatly for his dog and is heavily concerned when it is missing. Although, Saamano shows his affection in a non-healthy way (abuse).

Meursault’s Indifference To Anything and Everything

In the “The Stranger”, by Albert Camus, Meursault appears to be indifferent to many situations he faces throughout this story. Does this mean he truly does not care?

An example of this indifference is present when Meursault overhears Raymond beating his wife, while accompanying Marie: “Marie said it was terrible and I didn’t say anything” (Camus 36). Another example from the story is when Raymond asks how Meursault expected him to react to the cop, and Meusault replies, “I wasn’t expecting anything” (Camus 37).

It appears that Meursault’s indifference is present when he does not say, do, or think “anything” regarding a subject. I think that it is interesting how Meursault does not care about anything and wonder if it is him actually not caring, or him hiding or burying his true feelings because he is content with everything that he has. Part 1 briefly describes that Mersault grew less ambitious after he gave up his studies. It leads to reader to wonder why he gave up his studies and question whether there is a chance that his ambitions may reoccur and cause him to care again.

Meursault’s Apathy

How would you react if you heard that your mother passed away? Would you be saddened? Devastated? Shattered? Meursault, the protagonist of Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, reacts in a way that defies expectations: apathy. He shows no emotion to news that many would never want to hear. When he shows to her funeral, everyone else is confused or offended by his lack of remorse. Why does he act in such a way? Why would Camus put such a character in his work?

Meursault’s indifference to the world is the trait that separates him from everyone else. He has asked with similar detachment in other scenes. In Chapter 2 — the day after the funeral, he runs into Marie, and old coworker of his, at the beach. After some playful swimming and flirting, she asks him about his mother’s funeral and is shocked to hear that it was yesterday, most likely because of Meursault’s calmness about it. They then see a movie and spend the night together. The following morning, Marie is gone, and Meursault decides to not go to his usual place for lunch, lest he be asked about his mother’s funeral again by her. He spends afternoon in his apartment, thinking about how his life has not changed at all. Despite falling in love with someone, he forgets about it quickly. He acts as if it never happened at all. However, I believe that there is a reason to his apathy. Meursault is written as such because he represents the author’s own opinion of life.

In 1942, the same year he published The Stranger, he also wrote a short story called The Myth of Sisyphus. In it, he introduces his idea of the absurd, which is formed by the conflict between the human desire to find purpose and order in life and the universe’s indifference of creating it. Meursault embodies this philosophy, with him accepting every action in his life without much care. He is indifferent to his mother’s death because the universe is also indifferent to it. The same can be said for his date with Marie, with him seeing it as just the world’s carelessness in action. Meursault is apathetic because he has become indifferent of the universe.

Meursault’s Lack of Emotion Results in Divergence From Society

From the beginning of Albert Camus’ novel, “The Stranger”, the main character Meursault demonstrates a distinct lack of emotion towards typically moving events such as death and relationships which leads to a distinct separation from society. After attending his mothers funeral services and returning home, Meursault’s deepest thoughts are about finally going to sleep. The next day, although boring, results in him reflecting that, “…anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed” (24). Meursault’s apparent lack of grief towards the death of his mother divides him from the typical societal response to death. He continues on with his daily activities such as going to breakfast at his favorite restaurant, going to the beach, and returning to work after a weekend instead of the archetypal actions such as reconnecting with loved ones, evaluating ones feelings, or reviewing fond memories of the deceased. Meursault further demonstrates his nonchalant view of life after his girlfriend Marie asks him if he loves her. Marie questioned Meursault about his true feelings to which he responds, “…she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so. She looked sad” (35). Meursault’s clear lack of acknowledgment of typical feelings shared in a romantic relationship makes his character appear disconnected from the world around him. Meursault even recognizes that Marie reacts negatively towards his indifferent response, however his unemotional perspective on life renders him incapable of understanding her sadness. Meursault’s uncaring and dispassionate attitudes of generally important events of his life cause a downfall in his relation to society.

Can Meursault experience deep emotions?

Whether it is mourning the loss of a loved one, evaluating right vs. wrong, or opening up about love, Meursault tends to respond in an unusual way.  In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the main character Meursault does not seem to be capable of having a deep, meaningful relationship with the people around him. His supposed romantic relationship with Marie is passionless, and when asked about marriage Meursault responds in a lackluster way, “it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to”(41).  Providing no emotions or thoughts on the idea of something as important as marriage shows insight on Meursault’s ideas on love or relationships. His descriptions of Marie also focus on her body, as of now, the reader does not know much about Marie as a person other than when she was wearing a striped dress, “You could make out the shape of her firm breasts, and her tan made her face look like a flower”(34).  When talking about Marie, it is always in a sexual way, Meursault talks about her in a surface level way.

Is this casual approach to relationships a way to ensure that Meursault does not get himself hurt? Or is there something else behind his detached approach to life?

Emotions during loss

In “The Stranger”, we see how emotions change when you lose a loved one. The book introduces Salamano and his dog, and readers quickly believe that Salamano is aggressive, violent, and shows immense hatred towards his dog. In the book, Salamano calls his dog a “Filthy, stinking bastard!” and constantly yanks the dog, beats the dog, and swears at the dog. From Salamano and the dog’s daily relationship, you would think that Salamano has no emotion and care towards his dog. However, when Salamano’s dog was lost, he showed different emotions. When his dog was missing, Salamano was anxious to find his dog, talking to Meursault about ways to find him. Salamano even said that when he hears other dogs bark, he thinks it is his own dog. Salamano’s actions show care and compassion towards his dog, which is a stark contrast from how he acted towards his dog during everyday life. This was confusing to me. It made me wonder if our true emotions and feelings are shown in our everyday life, or if they are shown when we lose the people/animals that we love the most? I don’t know the answer to my question, but it was very interesting to think about.

The Importance of Ambition

Throughout the entire first part of The Stranger, the thing that sticks out to me the most is how Meursault views each situation he is placed in with what I would describe as nonchalance. I have found that, in most stories, there is almost always an end game for the protagonist; there is always some ambition that is striven for, whether it be based on personal gain, the defeat of a greater evil, emotions, or the betterment of society. However, in this story, it would appear as though Meursault has no end game. When his boss offers him a job in Paris and he says he doesn’t care either way, his boss tells him that he has no ambition. To me, this indicates that Meursault’s lack of ambition is part of the theme of the story. To have an antagonist who doesn’t have an ambition, who doesn’t truly desire anything, makes for an intriguing read because you can’t see the ending. When you have a main character like Mearsault, who isn’t driven by any one thing, it can be almost impossible to predict his actions. For instance, when he shot the Arab man at the end of Part 1, it wasn’t an act of revenge, but rather a kind of instinctual response to his exhaustion and disorientation. As the narrator says, “everything began to reel”. What I think Part 1 is trying to express is the danger of the unpredictability that occurs when a person has nothing to drive them, or to ground them.

Why Doesn’t Meursault Care?

In chapters 1-6 of The Stranger, the main character, Meursault, is indifferent about life. In the first sentence of the book by Albert Camus, Meursault says, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know” (1). This quotation illustrates how Meursault doesn’t express emotion at the death of his own mother. It also alienates him from society because most people would be very sad if that happened to them, and he doesn’t express their typical shared emotion. Another instance where Meursault shows indifference can be found on page 41. The text states, “That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her.” When Marie asks Meursault if he loves her, he says no and it doesn’t mean anything to him. This is super sad for Marie and she is confused as to why he answers this way. From these two quotations, we can conclude that Meursault doesn’t care much about life, but why? On page 41, the text states, “Looking back on it, I wasn’t unhappy. When I was a student, I had lots of ambitions like that. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered.” The previous quotation doesn’t fully explain Meursault’s attitude, but it helps us to understand his position. After his studies, he became less ambitious and was unmotivated at work. This is not a full explanation, but it helps the reader to better realize why the protagonist is indifferent.

Discussing “Sonny’s Blues”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • A lot of the story takes place with characters on the move, whether this is on the subway, in a taxi, world travel, or walking the streets. What could this constant motion symbolize?
  • Do you think the narrator sees potential in the boys he teaches or only sees their potentially rough futures?
  • After leaving work, the narrator runs into one of Sonny’s old friends. What do you think this interaction symbolizes?
  • There are short references to music scattered throughout the story, what do these inclusions add to the meaning of the story?
  • Do you think that the narrator truly cares for his brother’s well being or is only in his life because of a moral family obligation?

period 2
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  • How does the narrator deal with his suffering?
  • Will Sonny relapse and start using drugs again?
  • If everyone suffers and deals with their suffering individually, then is all expression an expression of suffering?
  • Why do those who grew up in darkness and suffer because of it raise their children in the same darkness?
  • How does Sonny and the narrator’s fraternal relationship affect their interactions and issues?

period 3
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  • What do you think caused Sonny to start using drugs?
  • What does the music being played symbolize at the end of the story?
  • How does Grace dying have an impact on Sonny and the rest of the story?
  • Do you think the story would be different if told from a different perspective?
  • What is the correlation between the drink Sonny receives at the end of the story and his life?

Discussing “Barn Burning”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • What’s the significance of the final line in the story?
  • Considering he liked setting fires, why did Abner Snopes build such small fires on regular nights?
  • What was Abner Snopes’ real involvement in the war? What does this mean about him? About his son’s view of him?
  • What does Abner Snopes ruining the de Spains’ rug symbolize?
  • Why does Faulkner continuously compare Abner Snopes to tin?

period 2
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  • Consider the father’s relationship with wealth. His approach to the war seemed to indicate greed and materialism, yet his treatment of de Spain’s carpet points to a resentment of wealth. Do you think the father desires wealth? Why or why not? What other priorities interact with his desire for wealth, or lack therefore?
  • While the battle between “blood” and “law” is one that permeates the entire story, the narrator has a clear shift between taking a beating for his family’s honor in the beginning and betraying his father in the end. What might have caused this shift?
  • Faulkner opens the story with a description of the first court’s smell of cheese, filling the rest of the paragraph and even page with vivid descriptions of food and other sensory images that may seem tangential to the story. What purpose do these sensory descriptions serve?
  • When Colonel Sartoris and his father come across the de Spain’s house, the boy is awestruck and forgets about most everything else. What does this reveal about Colonel Sartoris’s views of the world? His relationship & similarities/differences with his father?

period 3
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  • Why was the son named Colonel Sartoris?
  • Why did Abner Snopes lie about his role in the Civil War?
  • Why did the father believe Colonel Sartoris Snopes would have told the judge? Why does he lie about his intentions even though he was not going to tell the judge what his father did?
  • Why does Colonel Sartoris Snopes decide to run?
  • In the end of “ Barn Burning” does Colonel Sartoris regret his decision to run?