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I found the most interesting aspect of Ron Rash’s short story “Burning Bright” to be the moral dilemma that Marcie, the main character, faces.  She and her husband, Carl, live in a small town in North Carolina.  The town is experiencing a major drought, and someone in a black pickup truck is setting fires in the surrounding area.  The majority of the town suspects that Carl is the culprit, and Marcie harbors secret doubts about her husband, as well.

Marcie does not know what to believe.  She loves Carl and wants to think that he would never commit arson, but she admits to noticing strange aspects of his behavior that make her doubt his innocence.  Marcie blames her doubt on her neighbor’s attitudes towards Carl.  They are naturally suspicious of him because he isn’t from their small town.  Carl is also much younger than Marcie, and she tells herself that her doubt also stems from people who have “made you believe you don’t deserve him, don’t deserve a little happiness.”    Marcie does have cause to suspect that Carl is the arsonist, however.  On their honeymoon, Marcie buys Carl a gift of his choice.  He chooses a lighter, which she sometimes sees him playing with on the porch at night, flicking the flame on and off for no apparent reason.  On the day that the story takes place, a fire has been set thirty minutes before Carl came home from work.  When he comes home, Marcie notices that there is a five-gallon can of gasoline in the bed of his black pickup truck.  This could just be fuel for the chainsaw he uses at work, but Marcie is afraid that he used the gasoline to start the latest fire.  According to the sheriff that stops by their house, Carl almost went to juvenile detention for setting fire to a baseball field as a teenager, which provides more cause for suspicion against Carl.

The moral dilemma that Rash sets up forms the main conflict of “Burning Bright.”  Marcie thinks that Carl could be setting the fires that keep occurring around her town, but she wants to believe his innocence.  Moral dilemmas like this one make readers more interested in a story.  Carl is so quiet and almost secretive that readers can’t really guess if he is the arsonist or not, and this makes them more interested in the story.


This article from Writer’s Digest explains the role that moral dilemmas play in making stories and characters better:  http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/5-moral-dilemmas-that-make-characters-stories-better?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wds-bak-wir-160906&utm_content=876269_WDE160906&utm_medium=email


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