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Character Development In "Barn Burning" By William Faulkner

1385 words - 6 pages

"Barn Burning", by William Faulkner describes the development of Colonel Sartoris Snopes (Sarty) with his coming to manhood and the concomitant rejection of his father (Mr Snopes). From the beginning of the story, we witness the growing conflict between the two characters which is identified from the beginning of the text with the boy's anxiety in the courthouse. Nevertheless, through this latent emotional (and physical) rebellion, what the boy comes through is the discovery of evil, embodied by the patriarchal figure whose destructive will seems to control everyone and everything. This desperate situation tears the boy in two because he doesn't seem able to chose between "the old fierce of blood" (the fidelity to his father), and his thrust towards justice and truth.The story is centered on Sarty' s emotional dilemma. Faulkner places heavy emphasis on the sensational details that the boy feels. This can be seen in the opening paragraph when we find that he is unconsciously aware that things are happening.The frequent references to blood refer to the past, where you come from, to your origins and your "descendants". This idea creates tension throughout the story, as the father demands identification from his son against their "mutual" enemy. Sarty has inherited the traditions and the father tries to convince his son that their interests are identical.In the second major scene, Mr Snopes leads his son up the slope, away from the family at the campfire. The child looks up at the towering figure of his father "against the stars...of the frockcoat." He strikes his son "on the side of the head but without heat", like he had struck the two mules and at times he also speaks "without heat" These images of cold violence and indifference to inflicted pain convey the child's sense of his father emotional frigidity. Mr Snopes' s cold violence is not an expression of hatred or anger: violence is a tool, used upon his son (as upon the mules) to make him to do his bidding. The father is violent when he thinks that he has been threatened.The son uses satanic images to describe his nightmarish vision of his father. For instance, as they go up the drive, Sarty follows his father: traditionally, the devil casts no shadow and Mr Snopes' figure appears to the child as having "that impervious quality of something cut ruthlessly from tin, depthless, as though sidewise to the sun it would cast no shadow" (p.168). Fire, the element of the devil, is the weapon for the preservation of his superiority. He cannot accept no order beyond his own. In the text, there are several references to Heaven and Hell (the constant evocation of the fire with the "scarlet devils" on the cans, p.162, "Damnation!", p.163, "in the red haze", p.164, "the light...flaring up", p.173). In the satanic myth, Lucifer asserts his will against the divine order and he is cast out of heaven. The angels who fall with Lucifer become extensions of his will.The father's will is so great that it creates a...

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