In the stories, “The Lie,” by Kurt Vonnegut and “Barn Burning,” by William Faulkner, the main characters mature from childhood into adulthood. This maturity either develops from support of one’s family and upbringing or it grows internally from one’s conscience. We see from both stories that the main characters use this maturity to courageously speak up. In the story, “The Lie,” Eli matures into adulthood. Due to his parents’ lack of understanding of his individuality in the beginning of the story, Eli has to deny his own feelings. When Eli receives the letter that he was rejected from the esteemed high school, Whitehill, he secretly tears it up since he is nervous of his parents’ disappointment. Eli’s mother, Sylvia, helps him transition into maturity as she begins to recognize her son’s individuality. At the beginning of the story, Sylvia thinks of her son as just another Ramenzal that will be attending Whitehill and even gives him “number thirty one” (Vonnegut, 2) in the honored list of the Ramenzals who have attended the institution.
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Sylvia fails to realize that Eli has unique qualities that are different from the rest of the Remenzels until the end of the story. When the Remenzels discover from the headmaster that Eli has not been accepted to the school and realize that Eli has ran away because of the tough situation he got himself into, Sylvia finally recognizes that Whitehill is not the best place for him. This allows Eli to open up and express his feelings comfortably. We see this when Eli expresses his feelings of anger at his father for trying to get him into Whitehill, for he realizes he will not succeed there. He says, “You shouldn’t have done that” (Vonnegut, 12). At the point that he is recognized as an individual, he is ultimately able to mature through his new ability to express himself without being intimidated. Sarty from the story “Barn Burning,” also develops and matures into adulthood. Throughout the story he has an internal conflict between loyalty to his family and doing what is right. Sarty’s father, Abner, makes this struggle very difficult by pressuring his son to be loyal to a family that is living a life of vengeance, anger and retribution.
He accuses his son of almost telling the justice that his father did in fact burn down the barn. He hits his son and then tells him, “You got to learn. You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you” (Faulkner, 3). He is faced with a conflict which he describes as “being pulled two ways like between two teams of horses” (Faulkner, 7). Finally at the end of the story he builds up the courage to run away from his family and tell the landlords that his father is planning on burning their barn. He realizes that he made the right decision of following his conscience and doesn’t regret being disloyal to his blood, as the story ends, “He did not look back” (Faulkner, 11).
We see in these two stories the main characters’ initiation into adulthood. They both are able to openly express what they really thought was the right thing. Eli matures and is able to express his feelings when he is recognized as an individual and not as another Remenzel. Sarty also develops into an adult as he follows his conscience, and speaks out against his family. Sometimes a person, like Eli, needs support in order to mature, yet sometimes a person, like Sarty, matures, regardless of support, by following his conscience.
Faulkner, William. Barn Burning. Logan, IA: Perfection Form, 1979. Print. Kurt Vonnegut. The Lie. Woodstock, IL: Dramatic Pub., 1992. Print