William Faulkner And Barn Burning

1336 Words6 Pages
"Rebellion, against not only rationalism but also against all traditional modes of understanding humanity, is the attitude forming the artistic backdrop as the twentieth-century begins. The perspective of the 'modern' and of modernism in literature is that the rationalist project fails to produce answers to the deepest human questions, is doomed to failure, and that we are on our own for seeking answers to questions about human meaning." (Mr. John Mays) Sarty Snopes in William Faulkner’s Barn Burning, explores these questions of human meaning, which ultimately classifies this modernistic short story. The dichotomy and differences between Sarty and Abner Snopes creates an undeniable tension within the character of Sarty, while he battles himself in order to decide which is more important: that which is right, or sticking to your own blood. The characters of Sarty and Abner embody the renewed modern man and his flawed predecessor respectively; once Sarty understands this, he is then able to see that he has the ability to break the blood bonds which are holding him back, and in this, realizes the fragile state of his power and powerlessness. The story begins with Abner Snopes on trial for barn burning. Faulkner immediately establishes the character of the predecessor as a vile man, characterized by his "ravening and jealous rage." (2182) And predictably, his business with barn burning was not an uncommon offense. Faulkner says, "But he did not think this now and he has seen those same niggard blazes all his life." (2180) Ab Snopes tries ruthlessly to also make his son his equal, "You’re getting to be a man. 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." (2180-81... ... middle of paper ... ...age, but this synopsis does not promise the fulfilling of the American Dream. Rather, Faulkner insists that no frontiers protect a man from his past, so the American West shelters Sarty's idealism as only a transition between the decadent South and the battlefields of Europe.” While Sarty was powerless over the death of his father, he rose above, able to understand his power and powerlessness over life. (Ford) Faulkner’s Barn Burning proposes the complex state of the modern man. The modern man, embodied by Sarty Snopes, has the power to overcome the challenges of life, and is able to define himself as a being, separate from his corrupt heritage, especially his father. Faulkner’s purpose for Sarty was to explain the complex nature of man’s powerlessness over certain areas and his power over the other. Faulkner’s explanation of the modern man makes way for his belief.
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