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Commentary on Barn Burning Essay


Barn Burning Response

William Faulkner is arguably one of the greatest writers of southern gothic literature of all time. Faulkner spent most of his life in the south, in Oxford, Mississippi. It was there where he created his fictional place that most of his short stories and novels were set. This fictional world he created was closely based on his surroundings and interactions in Oxford, Mississippi. All of Faulkners works need to be read more than once because there is always something more underneath the surface.

Faulkners Barn Burning is one of his short stories set in southern Mississippi. The story follows the poor, farming Snopes family. The story begins in a courthouse in the back of a general store where Abner Snopes is on trial for burning a barn. Snopess son, Colonel Sartoris Snopes is called to the stand to testify against his father, but he lies to protect him. No evidence is found against Abner Snopes, but they family is told to leave town for their own good. The Snopes family then travels to Major de Spains plantation where Abner and his sons will work as sharecroppers. Not long after they get there and begin working, something terrible begins to happen. Abner and his son Sartoris enter into Major de Spains house and ruin an expensive French rug. Major de Spain tells Abner to clean it and he does reluctantly. However, he does not clean it well enough and Major de Spain sues him for twenty bushels of corn. Abner becomes infuriated and tells Sartoris to fetch the oil so he can burn down Major de Spains barn. Sartoris does not do so and tries to run to tell Major de Spain what is going to happen. He is restrained by his mother and aunt, but eventually breaks free. He runs to the house and yells out that his father is going to burn the barn, and then he begins to run off on his own. Once he gets a little bit past the house he hears gunshots ring out and does not look back.

Southern families during this time period were usually incredibly strong together as a unit. The role of the family and staying loyal to your blood is one of the central themes Faulkner uses in Barn Burning. Throughout the whole story, until the very end the boy, Sartoris is very loyal to his father and his family. Even though the father, Abner is really a totally flawed character, Sartoris still lies and sticks up for him, even when he knows what his father did was wrong. It is amazing to see how naive the boy is at first when he thinks of Mr. Harris in the courtroom at the beginning of the story as his fathers enemy, He could not see the table where the Justice sat before which his fathers enemy(our enemy---he thought in that despair; ourn! mine and hisn both! Hes my father!) (Faulkner340). Throughout much of the story, little Sartoris seeks approval and affection from his father. Sartoris is just a little boy who is beginning to grow up and become a man, and the only person he can base what he wants to be like off of is his completely negative father. His father recognizes that and as a result, Sartoris is called upon to do many chores and jobs. Once again, Sartoris stays loyal and does not complain even when he knows his older brother can do the work also. As a result of his place in the family, Sartoris matures at a young age, which ultimately causes what many think is his fathers death. Sartoris breaks his family ties to turn his father in which means he can never return to his family and be accepted. Young Sartoris becomes a man at about the age of ten.

William Faulkner is one of the greatest southern gothic writers. Faulkners Barn Burning is a prime example of the southern gothic genre. It has aspects of darkness in the father figure and with his actions of burning barns. The theme of family ties is very important in this story as with any work set during right after the civil war in the south. Young Sartoris finds out however, that staying loyal to your blood is not always the right thing to do.

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