Literary Analysis of “Barn Burning”

Topics: William Faulkner, Morality, Sartoris Pages: 7 (2800 words) Published: April 15, 2008
A Literary Analysis of “Barn Burning”
In the beginning, “Barn Burning” appears to be a story about an oppressive father and his family, who seems to be caught up in his oppression. As you read further in to the story you find that the story is focused on a young son of a poor sharecropper, 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 morality. The young son, whose name is Colonel Sartoris Snopes, is the protagonist in this story. Sarty (the boy’s nickname) disapproves of his father’s destructive actions and soon has to decide whether to be loyal to his family or give in to his own values of morality. Abner Snopes, who is the boy’s father, is the antagonist in the story. Abner Snopes is a very angry man, who despises the aristocracy class of people whom he has to work for and throughout the story constantly displays this hatred. The story is narrated in third person and follows a typical format. In Faulkner’s writing style, he uses descriptive dictation to draw the reader’s in to the story. In the first paragraph Faulkner introduces us to the main character in the story, Sarty. Subsequently, throughout the story we are introduced to the other family members. The setting in which Sarty’s conflict is recognized is at a trial, where his father is being accused of setting a barn on fire. This is also where Faulkner allows us a glimpse of Sarty’s internal moral dilemma in regards to is father’s actions. Faulkner also introduces three other settings that which have important thematic interest in the story. Throughout the story we are shown the emotional turmoil that Sarty and his family endure because of his father’s destructive nature. Faulkner uses symbolic themes such as; fire, blood and law which are used to describe what Sarty has to deal with in regards to his own feelings and his family’s. The characters in this story are Sarty, Abner, the family (mom, sisters, brother and aunt). There are the two main characters in this story, Abner Snopes and Colonel Sartoris. Abner Snopes is a man who is only loyal to himself. He put his trust in no other man and firmly believes that family should stick together no matter what. He is currently making a living as a poor sharecropper but he also has a distinctive military background that describes his character. Snopes joined the Confederate forces in the Army but soon became a deserter after stealing horses from the army and selling them to whomever for his own profit. This story however reveals Abner as being a member of Colonel Sartoris’ Calvary, whom which his youngest son Sarty is named after. Abner Snopes has a hatred for other individuals whose social status is above his and from the beginning of the story you come to terms with how he chooses to handle these individuals. Snopes’ character represents hatred and uses a criminal manner to illustrate this hatred. Each day he is constantly reminded of his social status and living conditions and in order to express his misery he chooses to burn what he does not have. Sarty is a small boy for his age, his physical features are similar to his father; he has a small, unshaped wiry body frame, however these are the only things he has in common with his father. He does not believe that what his father does is right. As you see in the story, Sarty is a boy of truth, honesty and integrity. His full name is Colonel John Sartoris. At the trial in the beginning, the justice asks Sarty, “I reckon any boy named for Colonel Sartoris in this country can’t help but tell the truth, can they” (FAULKNER PG.251)? Sarty’s character epitomizes the morality theme of the story and represents the individualism of establishing moral principles. We are then introduced to the rest of the Snopes’ family .The older brother, sisters, mom and the aunt, all whom don’t believe that what Abner Snopes does is right but feel they have no choice but to go...
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