Fire in the Third Degree
Warmth, heat, anger, destruction, rage, devastation, death, cleanser, survival, passion, desire, power, energy, colorful, beautiful, magical, quick-movement, flamboyant, bright. These thoughts or connotations and many others have crept into the minds of many whilst they were gazing at the lively bursts of the fire as it dances. Many feel a sense of safety from the warmth given off by the fire; others only see it as wild and uncontrollable. Although, all of these connotations and many more exist, yet, the main context in which fire is used in “Barn Burning” is as a way to represent Abner’s lack of power through self-expression.
The first time that we are introduced to fire in this story is when Abner is on trial for burning down Mr. Harris’ barn. Harris states that he continuously tried to help Abner make a fence for his pig, even by providing the materials. After these repeated attempts, however, Abner still burned the man’s barn down. Although the author doesn’t clearly state this in this section of the story, as the judge dismissed the case for lack of witness, we can infer that Abner did in-fact burn the barn down from his later actions. The reader can begin to see the connotation of self-expression here by seeing that it was Abner’s reluctancy to take a simple order which caused him to burn the barn. Abner’s son Sarty nearly has a panic attack at the thought of having to lie to save his father as he approaches the stand. The men can clearly see Sarty’s un-comfort and let him go without testifying. Even after seeing his son sweat bullets, Abner is still raging at the fact that his son couldn’t lie to protect him. In this instance we can see how Sarty disobeying Abner sends him in a rage as a result of feeling a loss of power.
Later, we see the fire Abner has built to keep his family warm through Sarty’s eyes as he stares into it blindly as they rest at camp. The boy had so many questions to ask yet knew to keep them to himself;...
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