A Father's Legacy in William Faulkner's Short Story "Barn Burning"
The cruel dominance of a father, can extinguish any flame of hope that builds in the people around him. In William Faulkner's short story "Barn Burning," Abner is that father. The story portrays a nomadic life of a family driven from one home to another. Abner had a craving hunger to belittle those around him that thought they were "better than him." Although the family accepts the nomadic life, Sarty (the son) dreams of having peace and stability. To have this peace, it only requires a lack of conflict. The Snope family was doomed to struggle due to Abner's constant instigation of conflict, the ongoing domination of his family and his complete lack of respect for the law.
Abners instigation of conflict, gives him justification to destroy the center of livlihood (the barn) of those he envies. The "ravening and jealous rage" he feels when seeing DeSpains home for the first time, leads to his desire to destroy it in some way. After deliberateley stepping in horse droppings, he forces himself in the home past the Negro. "The boy saw the prints of the stiff foot on the doorjamb and saw them appear on the pale rug behind the machinelike deliberation of the foot." Upon being asked to leave, "the boy watched him pivot on the good leg and saw the stiff foot drag round the arc [...] leaving a final long and fading smear." Although Abner had not appeared to be aware of the destruction he was doing, the intent of his actions became obvious when he carefully scraped off his boot on the front porch. There is no doubt that Abner expects a confrontation with De Spain. The response he recieves, however, is not the one he is expecting, De Spain only wants him to clean the rug. With the bubbling wash-pot and the corrosive lye soap Abner's daughters began to scrub at the stains. Abner watches the progress and decides that the soap is not doing the level of destruction he desires. "[Sarty] saw his father raise from the ground a flattish fragment of field stone." Even through his wife had pleeded with him to stop, the result of Abner's work was displayed that evening over the backs of two chairs. "The tracks of his father's foot were gone. Where they had been were now long, water-cloudy scoriations resembling the sporadic course of lilliputian mowing machine." The instigation of conflict that started with the rug, would again lead to the family's shattered dream of peace.
Abner's consistent and ongoing domination of his family left them unable to stop the continuing cycle of strife. His cold, emotionless responses coupled with his tendancy for quick, savage blows left his family in a state of apprehensive anticipation. A good representation of this is Sarty's confrontation with his father after the hearing in the store. "[Abner's] voice [was] harsh like tin and without heat like tin. ...