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Abner as a Poor Father Figure in Barn Burning Essay


A father is a figure typically known for his power to protect and the desire to love his family. However, this is not the case in Barn Burning by William Faulkner. Abner Snopes sharecrops to make a living for his family. He despises wealthy people. Out of resentment for wealthy people, he commits crimes in order to create chaos against his victims. His deeds force his family to move constantly. William Faulkner characterizes Abner by his cold-hearted actions, and his unchanging personality, to help us as students better understand this antagonist.

William Faulkner characterizes Abner Snopes as an unemotional, evil character. His cold-hearted actions leave him and his family no choice but to move around constantly. In the very beginning of the story, Abner burns down Mr. Harris barn for revenge. This occurred after Abner allowed his hog to get into Mr. Harris corn for the third time. Another example of his vengeful attitude occurs when Abner enters the home of Major de Spain. He examined the house with brief deliberation. Then with the same deliberation he turned; the boy watched him pivot on the food leg and was the stiff foot drag around the arc of the turning, leaving a final long and fading smear (519). This quotation shows his hatred toward the wealthy. Abner examines the house and sees its perfection for a final time. He takes his revenge upon Major de Spains success by leaving a mark on the rug from the manure on his shoe. The final example of his vengefulness is the strongest. Because Major de Spain is to receive ten bushels of corn for the damage done to his rug, Abner attempts to burn down his barn as well. Go get that oil, his father said. Go (524). This quote shows how Abner intended to burn down Major de Spains barn as revenge for being forced to pay him ten bushels of corn.

Abner is completely unfeeling in his actions. His tone of voice is without emotion. Another example is when he maintains such a calm, emotionless composure when he speaks in court. Although Abner is in a serious situation, he remains cold and unfeeling. He uses no emphasis in what he says although what he says could mean whether he is proven guilty or innocent. In all his actions including physical cruelties, he maintains the same composure. For example, His father struck him with the flat of his hand on the side of the head, hard but without heat, exactly as he had struck the two mules at the store, exactly as he would strike either of them with any stick in order to kill a horse fly, his voice without heat or anger (517). with the same lack of conviction. This lack of compassion or emotion is the same in all cases regardless of who or what the situation concerns. Without feeling he tells the servant to get out of his way. His voice expresses the same emotion when Sartoris questions his authority. Aint you going to even send a nigger (524)? This quote embodies Abner Snopes overall unfeeling being. Abner Snopes is coldhearted and emotionless.

Throughout this story Abner Snopes has an unchanging personality. From beginning to end he feels no regret or sorrow for what he puts his family through from day to day. Although most people would consider he actions to be cruel, some see it as helpful in the way he raises his son. Abner is characterized as a mean, insane person to teach his son what to do in the near future. He is a dark, imposing obstacle to his son's development into his own man. He is not characterized much beyond this simple role of near evil to stand in his son's path to manhood. He abuses his family both verbally and physically, only to then create a bigger and better man of his son.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. Barn Burning. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama. 5th ed. Ed. Robert DiYanni. New York: McGraw, 2002. 1395-1496.

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