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Literary Analysis of William Faulkner's 'Barn Burning'

0 August 12 2014, 14:14 in Literary Essay

Literary Analysis of William Faulkner’s ‘Barn Burning’

Barn Burning is a short story by William Faulkner that deals with themes related to class conflicts, family struggles and the notion of revenge based from the perspective of a child. Looking closely, the point of view remains to be centered on Sarty Snopes as he conveys to readers the story of his deviant father, who remains to commit criminal acts that include burning barns (Faulkner 1). Though the young Sarty remains to disagree with his father’s actions, he continued to respect Abner Snopes position as head of the family. However, his inability to accept his father’s continued disrespect to others and authority made him sever his ties, report him to Major de Spain and in the end leave his family once and for all.

Examining closely the story, one of the important themes provided by Faulkner in this piece comes from the issue of loyalty. Based from this perspective, it shows the conflicting scenarios that the young and illiterate Sarty Snopes had to endure in convey his true feelings and intentions. There was of course the expectations related to saving his family, particularly his father, who has repeatedly committed crime against others and there is the expectation that as a citizen, he must report an individual who has disobeyed the law even regardless of connections or personal ties (ATU.edu 1). There is also of course the threat related to Sarty that he should always think about his family first else he will find that he will be alone in his life. At the end, this reality was manifested as Sarty chose to expose his father that he felt alone.

The use of darkness also remains to be an important symbolism used by Faulkner to advance the story. Since the piece revolves from the viewpoint of Sarty, Abner Snope’s actions remain to be clouded by mystery and uncertainty from the young man’s eyes. He finds it difficult to understand the true intentions of his father and even receiving punishment in his effort to correct his mistakes. Through the use of darkness, Faulkner arguably provides a good depiction of Sarty’s life when he was with his family (Pinion 1). It shows the burden of trying to portray the truth but remains to be conflicted by blood allegiance and connections. This darkness however shifts when Sarty finally chose to let go of his family ties and recognizes that dawn is coming. Arguably, this symbolism shows his freedom but at a certain expense.

The use of fire can also be seen as a powerful symbolism in the story. At one end, it can be analyzed as an instrument utilized by Abner in order to convey his expression and anger to the people who have caused him harm. However, the story also presents it in a way that it shows the limitations it carries to the antagonist. Though it was utilized as a tool, it made Abner also powerless because alongside these actions are consequences that curtailed his life and made him susceptible to punishments. Even if Abner sought to evade this by moving from one place to another, it was only temporary and eventually resulted to his death.

Overall, Faulkner’s ‘Barn Burning’ remains to be an important piece that targets interwoven social and family conflicts. By using the perspective of an illiterate and young Sarty Snopes, he lets readers appreciate the situation as it unfolds to a child’s eyes. Through his work he is able to convey multiple meanings that prompted Abner Snopes into committing such acts to the difficulty of Sarty in choosing between family and his moral obligation to tell the truth. Arguably, it is through such perspective that Faulkner is able to build upon powerful characters and a story that brings upon an image that readers are left to decipher and appreciate.

Works Cited

ATU.edu.Sarty’s Betrayal. 12 Nov. 2007. Web. Accessed 18 July 2014.

Faulkner, William. Barn Burning. Web. Accessed 18 July 2014.

Pinion, Randy. ‘Literary Analysis Faulkners Barn Burning’ Humanities 360. 16 Dec. 2006. Web. Accessed 18 July 2014.


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