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Symbolism in "Barn Burning"

By cardqueen Apr 12, 2013 467 Words
Rhonda Berry
EN-101-ON3
Feb. 24, 2013
Short Story Analysis Assignment

“Barn Burning”

“Barn Burning” is a short story about a young boy and his family who are completely controlled by their domineering father. Abner Snopes takes the law into his own hands and focuses his revenge on anyone he feels is wronging him. Sartoris Snopes wants acceptance and to be loyal to his father and his family; however, he struggles within himself to do the right thing, which can cause him to lose his family and be alone. He desperately hopes his father will change, and his family can move on from the past and have a normal life. Throughout this story symbolism plays an important part, from the different fires that are presented to the dawning of the new day in the end for Satoris.

The burning of Mr. Harris’ barn is Mr. Snopes way of getting revenge on him for charging him to get his pig back. Setting the fire is giving Mr. Snopes a sense of justice even though he is committing a crime to get it. It symbolizes that he is being his own “Justice of the Peace” that Satoris is to keep his secrets, as long he does, his father can get by with it. “Don’t you know all they wanted was a chance to get at me because they knew I had them beat? Eh?”, he tells Satoris in so many words that he has to lie to protect him that his life is in his hands. He plays on his sense of family loyalty, “…stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any to stick to you…” His father is telling Satoris that if he does not lie the punishment will fall on him because his family will abandon him and he will be alone; the fact is, if Satoris tells the truth his father will be found guilty and go to prison. In a sense he tries to say it will be Satoris’ fault, and not his.

Another symbol is when Satoris is running away from the house and knows that he can never return, “…he decided to get up and go on, and then he found he had been asleep because he knew it was almost dawn, the night almost over.” The night represent the darkness of the life he is living now and that it is almost over. The dawn symbolizes the next part of his life, a new dawn without anything that he has while his father is alive, but also he is leaving behind his family. It is a bitter-sweet time for him, but looks a little more promising than what he has, “…the grief and despair now no longer terror and fear but just grief and despair.”

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