William Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi. During his adolescent years he was motivated to attend school and even skipped the second grade. Unfortunately, while becoming a young adult he grew less fond of his studies and dropped out of high school when he was fifteen. In 1918 he was rejected from the U.S Air Force since he did not meet weight and height requirements, he then returned home to Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner attended University of Mississippi where he wrote the school newspapers and magazines. Due to his upbringing in the South which is duly noted in his literature works of art, Barn Burning would be considered his fictional representation of the merciless, money-making New South versus the land-owning, noble Old South. Barn Burning, part of a trilogy, also incorporates some aspects of his family life, for instance being brought in the times of the great depression. Barn Burning captures of the life of the south during this time period through his setting, characters, and symbols. In 1949, he won the Nobel Prize for literature which he used the income to establish a scholarship fund for black students. William Faulkner believed in integration of the South rather than segregation. William Faulkner “tells the story of his region and of his nation, to demonstrate the often tragic inextricability of past and present, to show the human capacity for baseness and for nobility, to search for truth and meaning in a world where values seem constantly to shift and to erode.” (Minter)
In the beginning, “Barn Burning” appears to be a story about a harsh father and his family, who seems to be caught up in his devilish ways. As you read further in to the story you find that the story is focused on the protagonist or son a poor sharecropper, Colonel Sartoris Snopes, who has to struggle with his father’s arsonist tendencies which are destroying his families’ reputation and life style, while coming to terms with his own ethics. However, don’t forget to notice the dialect in this story and Faulkner’s. Critic Hal Macdonald comments on dialect when Sarty Snopes says to himself, "He aims for me to lie [...] and I will have to do hit"(Faulkner 156) points out “Sarty's addition of an h before the pronoun "it," although characteristic of some rural Southern dialects, nonetheless strikes the ear of a Southern reader” (Par.1) In addition to the importance of dialect, we are missing out on a truly miserable pain in the context of the story seen through situations around a fire. Susan Yunis comments on the fact that Barn Burning focuses more on the tyranny of the father rather than the deplorable state his family is left in. An excerpt from the story shows this ongoing effect on his family: “The nights were still cool and they had a fire against it, of a rail lifted from a nearby fence and cut into lengths—a small fire, neat, niggard almost, a shrewd fire; such fires were his father's habit and custom always, even in freezing weather. Older, the boy might have remarked this and wondered why not a big one; why should not a man who had not only seen the waste and extravagance of war, but who had in his blood an inherent voracious prodigality with material not his own, have burned everything in sight? Then he might have gone a step farther and thought that that was the reason: that niggard blaze was the living fruit of nights passed during those four years in the woods hiding from all men, blue or gray, with his strings of horses (captured horses, he called them). And older still he might have divined the true reason: that the element of fire spoke to some deep...
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