“Barn Burning” Analysis
In William Faulkner's seminal work, "Barn Burning," he presents a deep, multifaceted character in Abner Snopes and leaves him up to the reader to interpret and judge. A number of essays and articles have been written about "Barn Burning" since its first publication in Harper's Magazine in 1939. Some focus on the inner struggles and perspective of protagonist Sarty Snopes, Ab's youngest son. Others spotlight and analyze Ab, and they do so in many ways. For instance, in some, he is portrayed as a nearly evil obstacle to Sarty's character development; while others choose to examine the nature of his character and Faulkner's descriptions of him; and yet others, normally the most recent, analyze his behavior on a social and economic level. Whatever the focus, a great deal can be written about Mr. Snopes, for his is a character very open to discussion.
Many early works about Snopes took him at face value. According to Zender, he is a dark, imposing obstacle to his son's development into his own man. He has moved from being a simple freebooter and thief to existing as a dark, vengeful individual. This change has made him into a tough old man against whom Sarty's developing personality begins to rail. He is not characterized much beyond this simple role an impenetrable wall of near evil to stand in his son's path to manhood (28). Sarty's final, climactic decision to break away from his father's rule is seen as proof of his own ultimate moral correctness against the demonic qualities of Ab (Zender 28-9). A young Sarty sees many devilish elements in his father. Ab's hand is characterized as claw-like in one passage, while in another, he is referred to as not seeming to cast a shadow, and in yet another, his foot seems to break into a pile of manure much as a cloven hoof would (Volpe 164). However, the older Sarty speaking through his younger self in the story sees even more of this demon of a man's dark side: his...
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