The Themes Portrayed in Barn Burning by William Faulkner

The Themes Portrayed In Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”.

The works of William Faulkner are drenched with the ambiance of the South. Faulkner, a master when it comes to southern dialect, is highly revered as a “Southern writer”. His works include, but are not limited to: “All the Dead Pilots”, “Barn Burning”, “Country Mice”, and “Knight’s Gambit”. A Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning novelist, Faulkner’s prose can be difficult to comprehend. Thus vast worlds of resources are available for the reader to gather his/her own understanding.

The following essay will take an in-depth look at “Barn Burning”. This piece is probably one of Faulkner’s most renowned works. The story is centered on resentment and inner turmoil. The main character in this piece, Abner Snopes, is a man with much hate in his heart. He’s a sharecropper who despises wealthy people. It is that same resentment that causes him to burn their barns as revenge for his own shortcomings.

His despise for the beurocratic aristocracy has fueled his hatred to the point where his mental wellness is considered highly questionable. Throughout the story, he demonstrates that he is a cold-hearted, violent, selfish, and lawless individual.

Abner’s unchanging character shows his cold heartedness. After being sentenced to leave the country for burning a man’s barn, he shows no emotions to his family. The oppressive conditions, which he forces his family to endure, are inhumane. During the story, there was not a time when he apologized or offered a word of encouragement to them.

Get quality help now
Prof. Finch

Proficient in: Barn Burning

4.7 (346)

“ This writer never make an mistake for me always deliver long before due date. Am telling you man this writer is absolutely the best. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

His tone of voice when talking to them is bitter and bossy, and he never said thank you.

Abner’s unchanging character is evident not only in his role as being cold-hearted but also in his role as being lawless. Abner’s act of breaking the law begins when he was supposed to be fighting in the Civil War, but instead he stole horses from both sides of the lines. When Abner returned home, he continued his act of breaking the law by committing arson. Abner Snopes has moved his family countless times because of his actions. Though I don’t quite understand how burning a barn, even during those times, is really considered revenge. These are wealthy people and it would have hurt them more to burn their homes than their barn.

Finally Abner’s unchanging character is revealed not only in his role as being cold-hearted and lawless but also as violent. It is seen throughout the story that Abner’s act of burning barns is violent. In one section of the story, he smacks his younger son and tells him to, “stick to your blood, our you won’t have no blood to stick to you.” (Faulkner) This was because his son felt compelled to tell the truth about his father’s actions. His son’s simple reply of yes saved him from more torture beatings from his father. He shoves his wife away when she tugs at his arm and tries to restrain him. Intending to guard against Satry’s betrayal, he picks up his son by the back of the shirt and hands him to his wife. He orders he to hold on to him and not let him run away. After Snopes leaves the house with his older son and the can of kerosene, Sarty escapes from his mother and runs to the house of Major De Spain. The Major, informed by Sarty of the danger, finds Snopes and his other son and shoots them before they can burn his barn. This event sparked the end of the violent acts of Abner, forever.

Conclusively, “Barn Burning”, Faulkner’s most recognized work, seizes the reader’s attention. When one reflects on the events and outcome of this story, it challenges them to search for a deeper meaning. Though his actions don’t show it, all he’s really after is dignity. He’s searching for his “big break”. However, he encounters nothing but setbacks. The cold hearted, lawless, and violent roles Abner Snopes play throughout the story, show his unchanging character. The story portrays how a poor man feel’s when the law is based on taking the rich man’s side. It follows him from being a coldhearted father and husband to a lawless and violent man, which, towards the end of the story, leads him to the death of himself. Things today are better than they were back during the Civil War. People are still categorized by how much money they have. But, because of better law enforcement and court systems, people can’t get away with the so-called revenge and hatred, as portrayed by the acts of Abner in the story.

Cite this page

The Themes Portrayed in Barn Burning by William Faulkner. (2022, Feb 21). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7