Critical Analysis of Barn Burning by William Faulkner
The story of "Barn Burning" was "first published in the June of 1939 in the Harper's Magazine and later awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award for the best short story of the year." The author, William Faulkner, "was one of America's most innovative novelists". The way he describes the smells, sites and sounds of the rural late 1800's make you feel as if you are there with the characters in this story. Through the use of symbolism, Faulkner tells the story about a relationship of a father and son. Fire was the most vital symbol used and describes the way, Abner, the main character in the story faces all of his challenges. He lived his life like a flaming inferno destroying everything he touches. In this story of a boy's struggle with his love for his father and doing what is morally right, the Family loyalty comes to flames in "Barn Burning".
The son, Colonel Sartoris, known as Sarty, had to deal with constant rejection from his father, Abner. The story starts with Sarty feeling the anxiety of whether he should tell the judge the truth or lie for his farther. He is in an emotional dilemma on what to do. Sarty knew if he told the truth, that his father might have to go to jail. As Sarty was called by the judge to come forward, he said to himself, "He aims for me to lie, he thought, again with that frantic grief and despair. And I will have to do it." In despair, "Enemy! Enemy! he thought; for a moment he could not even see, could not see the judges face was Murphy 2 friendly nor discern that his voice was troubled" (398)
Sarty is at a constant battle with himself, as he seems unable to choose between doing what is right or do what he knows what his father expects from him. Knowing that he will have to do something wrong in attempt to please his father seems to be the only way he will receive his praise.
Abner was a mean and bitter man. Faulkner uses symbols that refer to the dark side and of how ridged Abner was by stating, "his father, Stiff in his black Sunday coat," (398) "stiff black coat," and his "stiff black back, the stiff and implacable limp of a figure."
Abner felt there was discrimination by the rich folks against the poor people and that he was always looked down upon. It was always the other man that got the lucky break and a poor man never would get to be so lucky. The only way he felt he could attempt to get ahead, was to beat the other man to the punch first. Abner was just like the fires he built, uncontrollable, ruthless, and destroying everything he comes in touch with.
He was a poor Civil War veteran that traveled from farm to farm as a sharecropper. As a sharecropper his family had to share up too half of his harvest from his crops with the landowner. They always seemed to find work, but had to live in poor conditions. Abner had no hope of improving his financial condition and never new what the future would hold for him...