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Posted on May 7th, 2014, by

According to George Santayana, ”˜wisdom comes by disillusionment.’  So, what does disillusionment actually mean? It is known that the word ”˜disillusionment’ may be explained in two different ways. First it is a disappointment gained through the realization that the things aren’t go as they were expected to.

Additionally, disillusionment is often accompanied by the negative feelings because the previous beliefs were challenged.  Second, it could be also defined as the freeing from an illusion, which has some positive aspect in it. The freeing from the illusion means the new knowledge, new experience and the newly gained wisdom.

Is ignorance bliss? In some context it is definitely so. An ignorant person is not deeply affected by the life difficulties (or this individual may just not pay sufficient attention to them). Another closely related question that could be mentioned in the context of the ignorance versus wisdom discussion:  ”˜is the pursuit of knowledge always brings positive results?’ The majority if the Western theorists claim it is not, therefore in some cases ignorance may be considered bliss indeed.

Therefore,  wisdom is gained through the various life situations that are complex and even unpleasant and may lead to a certain disappointment. Nevertheless, these negative experiences and life crises may be considered as the development and progress of the human nature and result in the benefits for the person.  George Santayana was right; the wisdom is really gained through the disillusionment with the surrounding world, the close people around, or even with the person’s internal aspirations. These factors influence the self-awareness and may be considered as an obligatory and inevitable step toward wisdom.

Present paper is focused on the issues of the disillusionment and gaining wisdom that may happen in a form of world shattering events or may be small but despite it they have a big impact. Two outstanding short stories will be analyzed in search for the themes of the disillusionment and gaining wisdom: ”˜Barn Burning’ by William Faulkner and I ”˜Want to Know Why’ by Sherwood Anderson.  In my opinion, both stories have similarities in common, which are the themes of alienation (it includes the conflict of generations, loneliness in society and a lack of respect to each other) and disillusionment.

Without a doubt, Barn Burning by William Faulkner may serve as an excellent basis for the present essay, because it is dedicated to the protagonist Sartoris who is surrounded by violent environment and complex circumstances.  Fear, grief, and despair are the attributes help author in building the uneasy background of the whole story. In addition, they help the main character to develop his own ideas of morality, thus these unfortunate circumstances result in the disillusionment and consequently lead to the formation of Sartoris’ life wisdom.

Clearly, strong similarities could be found in the Faulkner’s and Anderson’s stories. Both major characters are boys who face serious emotional confusion and experience some kind of identity’s loss. Despair and grief are the common characteristics of the stress situations that surround these boys.

William Faulkner describes the confusion and mixed feelings felt by Sarty in ”˜Barn Burning’ when loyalty to his father makes him think about covering barn burnings made by his father. But despite the complexity of the circumstances, this boy eventually accepts himself, he finds his wisdom eventually.  William Faulkner decided to focus on the conflict of generations and classes. A protagonist feels himself alienated from his roots; he experienced such a substantial of his father, who is the antagonist in this story and has a criminal past.  But it has appeared that this kind of influence isn’t right.

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