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Burning Bright

Nothing in this story says small rural town to me more than the phrase “cut off”, which Marcie uses twice. I’ve heard people say that in small towns in Pennsylvania, so I know exactly where Marcie lives (although in North Carolina) and what kind of people she knows. Rash shows us that Marcie leads a mundane life by interspersing her memories of Carl and her worries about him with events from her trip to the grocery store. Later, Marcie thinks about how she and Carl do the same thing every night. This image of Marcie’s life supports the idea that she is trapped by her town’s expectations of her and to some extent by Carl. She married Carl because she was lonely, but he is not exactly engaging company. Instead of changing her life, he just shares her exile. Marcie lies to the sheriff about when Carl came home because she doesn’t want to be alone again, but also because the sheriff is introduced in terms of Marcie’s former husband Arthur, making him a kind of specter who judges her right from the start with his comment about the cows. He doesn’t see the new roof and garage, evidence that Carl is there, but looks instead at the dilapidated barn, evidence that Arthur is gone.

By the end of the story, it seems clear that Marcie prays for rain because she has heard that rain will stop the arsonist, who she believes is Carl. The story starts with information about the fires, but then moves on to the major effect of the drought – dying crops. Marcie tries to revive her garden by watering it and sees that other people in the town have resorted to superstitions to summon rain. Marcie gets to have her story told because, despite the magnitude of the crop disaster, that is not her main concern. Everyone else in town prays for rain so that their crops will grow, but Marcie prays for rain to keep her marriage intact.



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