Barn Burning is a short story by William Faulkner that was first published in 1939. The story takes place in the late 1800s in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Barn Burning is about a boy named Sarty Snopes who must choose between loyalty to his father and doing what is right.
Faulkner uses literary elements such as symbolism, foreshadowing, and irony to create a powerful story that resonates with readers long after they have finished reading it.
The title of the story, Barn Burning, is symbolic of the conflict at the heart of the story. On one hand, there is Sarty’s father, Abner Snopes, who feels that he has the right to burn down any barn that he pleases. On the other hand, there is Sarty, who knows that what his father is doing is wrong and wants to stop him.
Barn Burning is also full of foreshadowing. For example, early in the story, Sarty tells his father that he will “tell them” (referring to the people whose barns Abner has burned). This foreshadows Sarty’s eventual betrayal of his father.
Finally, Faulkner uses irony throughout Barn Burning. For instance, at the end of the story, Sarty runs away from home even though he knows that his father will likely catch up to him and kill him. The irony is that Sarty would rather die than continue to live with his father and help him burn down barns.
Barn Burning is a classic story that continues to be assigned in literature classes and read by readers all over the world. The reason for its enduring popularity is due in large part to Faulkner’s skillful use of literary elements.
Sarty employs both “hit” and “kin,” just as her father is informed of the consequences of damaging the carpet: “If he wanted hit done differently, why didn’t he wait and tell you how? He won’t receive a twenty-bushel sack! He will not receive any! We’ll get hit and hide it! I can watch… (Faulkner 16)” The last two sentences in particular make effective use of wordplay. Both meanings of the words may be taken from “We’ll get hit and hide it.”
But it can also be seen as a standalone sentence with the same meaning as the previous one. Sarty has shown that he is loyal to his family, no matter what they do. He will always watch out for them and help them hide their Barn Burning.
Faulkner uses literary elements in Barn Burning to not only tell a story, but to also create a deeper meaning behind the story. The elements of foreshadowing, symbolism, and dual meaning all contribute to the greater understanding of Barn Burning. Faulkner uses these elements to hint at what is to come, to give objects greater meaning, and to play with words to create double meanings. By using these literary devices, Faulkner creates a Barn Burning that is not just a story, but a Barn Burning that is full of hidden meanings and messages.
Given what he might have said if allowed to complete his statement, the double meaning of “kin” implies Sarty’s attraction to follow in his father’s footsteps, demonstrating the conflict between blood and his good character. It is from Sarty’s tainted blood line that he immediately flees. Blood, owing to its familial connotation, plays a key role in this narrative. To make Sarty’s situation clearer, the tale frequently juxtaposes blood with words such as fear, despair, and grief to exemplify what Sarty’s blood has done for him.
Barn Burning is a story about the struggle between family loyalty and morality. Sarty is constantly torn between the two, exemplified by his internal conflict regarding whether he should tell the truth about his father burning Mr. Harris’ barn. In the end, Sarty chooses morality over family, betraying his father and leaving him behind.
While Sarty is the protagonist of the story, it could be argued that Abner Snopes is the true main character. Faulkner gives us a detailed description of Abner’s physical appearance, habits, and thoughts, while only giving us glimpses into Sarty’s mind. We know very little about what Sarty looks like, but we know a great deal about Abner. Faulkner writes, “He was a small man with a concave chest and legs bowed from much hard riding of flatland horses and he wore high-heeled boots even when there was no riding to do” (Faulkner 2).
This description is in stark contrast to the way Faulkner describes Sarty: “The boy crouched back against the wall, his thin shoulders hunched together and his eyes fixed on his father’s face with an expression intent and secret and not afraid but waiting as if for the blow he knew was coming” (Faulkner 1).
Whereas Sarty is described with words like thin, crouched, and afraid, Abner is described with words like small, concave, and bowed. This contrast emphasizes the power dynamic between father and son. Sarty is submissive and powerless, while Abner is in control.
Sarty’s father, “had in his blood an inherent voracious prodigality with material not his own,” (Faulkner 6) says Mink. “Learn to stick to your own blood or you won’t have any blood to stick to you,” (Faulkner 7) warns Mink. Later, Faulkner describes Sarty’s blood: “this was the old habit, this was the old blood that he had not been permitted to choose for himself and which had run for so long before it came to him.” And it is because of this Sarty decides to flee.
The Barn Burning story is an excellent example of why this is so. Faulkner uses the Snopes family to show how class structure affects not only those in the lower classes, but also how it creates a dynamic between the classes. The Barn Burning story is narrated by Sarty, which gives us insight into his thoughts and feelings about his father. Faulkner uses literary elements such as setting, characterization, and conflict to develop the theme that loyalty to family is more important than justice.
The Barn Burning story takes place in Mississippi during the late 1800s. This was a time when there was a great deal of social stratification based on race and wealth. The white landowners were the elite class, while the black slaves were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The Snopes family is somewhere in the middle, as they are poor white farmers. This social stratification is evident in the Barn Burning story through the characters and the conflict.
The Barn Burning story is narrated by Sarty, who is a ten-year-old boy. He is loyal to his family, even though they are poor and his father is a Barn Burner. Sarty knows that his father is not a good man, but he feels like he has to stick by him because he is blood. This loyalty is put to the test when Sarty has to choose between testifying against his father and remaining loyal to him. Sarty chooses loyalty over justice and runs away from home instead of testifying against his father.
The conflict in the Barn Burning story is between Sarty and his father. Sarty’s father is a Barn Burner, which means that he burns down barns for fun. He does not care about the property or the people who own it. He only cares about causing destruction. This conflict comes to a head when Sarty’s father is accused of burning down a barn belonging to Mr. Harris. Sarty knows that his father is guilty, but he does not want to testify against him because he is loyal to his family.
The Barn Burning story is an excellent example of how literary elements can be used to develop a theme. The theme of this story is that loyalty to family is more important than justice. Faulkner uses setting, characterization, and conflict to develop this theme.