In the short story Burning Barns by William Faulkner, Faulkner expresses to his readers the philosophical message that; at what point should a person be faced with the choice of their own blood/family or their new found morals as well as their sense of individuality. Faulkner establishes this message with the use of third person limited omniscient point of view, developed characters, as well as symbolism. This short story is based on an emotional dilemma that Sarty Snopes is forced to face, whereas he has to choice between telling Major de Spain of his father’s plans with the barn or keep quiet.
Faulkner chooses to tell this short story in past tense as well as third person limited omniscient. Although a few characters get developed, throughout the story the narrator allows the focus of only one character; Starty Snopes. During this story, we understand the thoughts and feelings of starty. Without being able to understand his thoughts it would be unclear to the reader that sarty struggles against the divisive and repressive force which is represented by his father, Abner Snopes.
At the very beginning of the story we see that Sarty is being faced to go against his own morals, for example it takes place in a courtroom where his father is on trial for being accused of burning down Mr. harris’ barn. Sarty is asked to be a witness in court however while on stand he chooses to keep quiet instead of lying to the justice for his father’s sake, but we learn that twenty year Sarty tells himself , if I had said they wanted only the truth justice, he would have hit me again.
Abner Snopes is the father of Sarty snopes, his physical appearance affects his social standing. Over the course of the story we learn that Abner Snopes claimed to be a mercenary as well as a horse trader, however he actually stole the horses during the time of the civil war. During the time the short story took place, Abner Snopes took on the job as a sharecropper in order to be able to support his family. We learn that Abner Snopes can not keep a job for very long before him and his family are forced to move. Abner Snopes has a control issue and needs to feel a sense of authority. He strongly dislikes wealthy people, his hate for the wealthy caused him to go out and set fire to their barns in order to get revenge. Although Abner got sentenced to leave the country, he still continued to be cold hearted towards his family which had a strong effect on Sarty.
Colonel Sartoris Snopes, who goes by the name of Sarty and is sometimes referred to as the boy throughout the story, is ten years old and the youngest of all his siblings; he was named after a confederate soldier who fought in the civil war. As the story unfolds, we are able to understand the internal conflict that sarty faces. As he develops his morals as well as what he values, we learn that they interfere with the morals and values of his father. His father threatens to abandon him if Sarty chooses not to defend his father against the law. By the end of the story, Sarty finally chose to defy his own blood for what he believed was right.
Faulkner chose to use symbolism throughout the story to help convey his philosophical message. Faulkner represented Abner Snopes with the use of fire because abner would set fires in order to get his revenge on the people that he despised. The fires that Abner set allowed him to declare his independence. Faulkner led us to believe that without the use of fire, Abner Snopes would lose his sense of authority, fire spoke to the mainspring of his fathers being.
Fire allows Abner to feel a sense of control over his life. With the use of fire, Abner can hinder those around him. This can cause Sarty to feel slightly disconnected with his father due to what his father values. At the beginning of the story Faulkner introduces the use blood to symbolize blood ties within a family. When Sarty is in the store he smells something other than food. We learn that he smells the old fierce pull of blood. Later in the story Abner threatens Sarty with abandonment when he says You’ve got to learn to stick to your own blood or your own blood will not stick with you. Once again, allowing Sarty to feel a sense of disconnect and discomfort with his family.
Throughout the short story, Faulkner is able to express the philosophical message that; at what point should a person be faced with the choice of their own blood/family or their new found morals as well as their sense of individuality. Faulkner is able to establish this message with the use of past tense third person limited omniscient point of view only allowing the reader to understand the thoughts and feelings of Sarty Snopes, well developed characters such as Abner and Sarty Snopes, as well as the symbolism of fire, the wagon, and blood.
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