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“Barn Burning” Short Story by William Faulkner

This is an American story by William Faulkner. It revolves around the burning of barns where this article will major on the burning of the first barn. The themes of this short story are class conflicts, racism, vengeance, betrayal, father influences, etc. The characters of the stories are Sartoris Snopes who was referred to as Sarty. He is the son of Abner Snopes who is the head of the family. Lennie Snopes is the mother of Sartoris and the wife of Abner. Lizzie is a sister to Lennie Snopes. Mr. Harris is the first employer of Abner Snopes (Faulkner 2).

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The story started in the Justice of the Peace’s Court where Abner Snopes was charged with burning Mr. Harris’s barn. Mr. Harris was requested to give proof that it was Mr. Abner who burned his barn and he gave a story about a hog that made Abner burn his barn. Mr. Harris used to catch a hog for Abner that kept straying to Mr. Harris’s Corn. Despite several warnings by Mr. Harris to peg his hog, he did not heed to his warnings. Instead, Mr. Harris caught the hog and asked Abner to pay a dollar to get his Hogback.

Faulkner in his writings described that a nigger came with a dollar to pay for the fine. Racism is seen here when Mr. Harris described the African-American man as a nigger. Mr. Harris tried to explain that the African-American had a message from Abner that he would burn his barn but he could not hear him clearly. The judge asked him where he was so that he could testify but Mr. Harris still described him as strange (Faulkner 3).

Sarty was then called to testify of his father burning the barn. The boy lied and the case was closed due to a lack of witnesses. The theme of loyalty is seen here when the boy tried to protect his father from his enemies. However, Mr. Abner was told to leave the country (Faulkner 6).

Abner Leaves the Country

He took his wagon and his family. There was his wife, her sister, Sarty bigger brother, and his two sisters. Abner was seen as authoritative when he refused his wife to clean the wounds of Sarty’s big brother. He was hurt while trying to fight boys who were calling him barn burner. This reminds us of the nature of men, who long ago, their words had to be final. They did not want anyone to question them. They required everyone to be submissive including their wives.

During their journey, Abner interrogated his son if he was prepared to tell the truth to the judge. His son did not answer and he stroked him with his hand (Faulkner 8). Loyalty was stressed by Abner when he told his son that he did a good job of sticking to his own blood so that in the future, his blood could stick to him. Being loyal is important especially to our family and many people would recommend this.

Abner Second Employer

Abner with his family arrived the next day to his second employer, Major de Spain. The writer’s racism is seen here when he described an African-American as a Negro. His bad attitude towards African-Americans is seen when Abner ordered him” Get out of my way, nigger”. This was a result of being told that major de Spain was not at home by him. It is during this confrontation that Abner destroyed the rug of the major with mud. It was very expensive and came from France. He was unable to clean it and hence was fined. This pushed him to burn his barn. There is a similarity between barn burning one and barn burning two, due both have a theme of revenge. Abner was angry for having been fined by his employers and so he burned the barns out of revenge.

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Works Cited

Faulkner, William. “Barn Burning.” Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner. New York: The Modern Library, 1993. Print.

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