Analysis of The Barn Burning by William Faulkner

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Analysis of The Barn Burning by William Faulkner

The short story “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner is about a ten year

old boy, Sarty Snopes, who has grown to realize that his father, Abner

Snopes, provides a life of “despair and grief” as he refuses to

accept the “peace and dignity” generated by the ties with other

people. In essence, Sarty is faced with the dilemma of choosing

between his family (his blood) and moral conscience of what is right

and wrong.

Jane Hiles interprets this story to be about blood ties through Sartys

character in dealing with his internal conflict with his father. More

specifically, Jane Hiles refers to Abners statement, Jane Hiles refers

to Abners statement to Sarty, i.e. “You’re getting to be a man. You

got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any

blood to stick to you.” I agree with Jane Hiles in her interpretation

as the story clearly demonstrates Sarty’s struggle to find a means in

which to accept his father for the way he is as he does not want to

betray his family by breaking the code, i.e “feeling of blood, of

clan, blood for blood”, but his conscience can’t accept wrongdoing

against others. Abner’s character pursues an “antisocial pattern” and

“alienation from society in order to clan his family with the idea

that family stick together by “defending his own blood whether it be

right or wrong” as suggested in Faulkner’s appraisal of “clannishness”

Abner is an unpleasant and somewhat sadistic character in that he has

a habit of hitting his mules and yet holds back on their reins,

convinced that he is correct all the time, and seeks revenge to get

even by burning barns, yet he is conservative with fire. Abner is

further described througho...

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...do. When Sarty was sent out

to get the oil, Sarty wanted to “run on and on and never look back”,

but instead he tried to stop his father by sidetracking him to “send a

n****r”. This caused his father to demand the mother to hold Sarty so

that he could not get away, but he did. All Sarty wanted to do was

warn the landlord, De Spain of the barn burning. Consequently two

shots were fired.

Sarty will never know if his father and brother were shot, but he does

try to keep running as the “grief and despair now no longer terror and

fear but just grief and despair”, and breaks the blood tie from his

family as he no longer wishes to suffer from his fathers actions.

Regardless of Sartys decision to run away, he still cares for his

family, including his father, but he realizes what his father does is

wrong and he wants no part of it, even if its his own blood.
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