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William Faulkner

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 1 month ago

William Faulkner's Barn Burning




1. Pg. 2178

“…the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood.”

It is important to note three words within this passage: despair, grief and blood. Throughout this short story there are continuous references to these three words. This quote, being it is within the first paragraph, allows the reader to instantly know some themes that are within the story. Abner and many other characters in this story are filled with despair and grief, and this story shows how these emotions affect their lives. Also, Sarty is torn between being loyal to his blood (his family) and being honest.


2. Pg. 2179


“His two hulking sisters in their Sunday dresses and his mother and her sister in calico and sunbonnets were already in it, sitting on and among the sorry residue of the dozen and more movings which even the boy could remember—the battered stove, the broken beds and chairs, the clock inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which would not run, stopped at fourteen minutes past two o’clock of a dead and forgotten day and time…”

This passage seems to signify there was once a time where the characters had a better life—especially when the reader focuses on the part of the clock. The clock has stopped itself within a day and time that has now been forgotten—a time that seems to have been better than the one they are living in now. This could possibly be prior to the civil war or before the mother got married. Either way it hints that the people in this story have fallen and are now living a life of decay.


3. Pg. 2180


“And older still, he might have divined the true reason: that the element of fire spoke to some deep mainspring of his father’s being, as the element of steel or of powder spoke to other men, as the one weapon for the preservation of integrity…”

This passage is hugely significant as it explains why Abner seems to have this obsession with fire and burning barns. This passage alludes that Abner finds his strength in starting fires—it is the one weapon he has. He is so weak; the only way he feels power is by creating something powerful.


4. Pg. 2181


“…divulging nothing to him save the terrible handicap of being young, the light weight of his few years, just heavy enough to prevent his soaring free of the world…”

Irony can be found in this passage if one notes the term “handicap.” Sarty feels his handicap is being young which is ironic because usually one associates a handicap with someone who is elderly. Young people are usually healthy and able to run and be free, but this passage allows the reader to understand how burdened this young boy is.


5. Pg. 2181


“Later, twenty years later, he was to tell himself, ‘If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have hit me again.’ But now he said nothing. He was not crying. He just stood there.”

This passage foreshadows that Sarty will indeed find a voice for himself. At this moment he cannot speak up to his father, however, it is foreshadowed that someday he will understand his father better and his own situation better. He will himself recognize that all the court wanted was truth and justice. By the end of the story, one can already see that Sarty is becoming a man by making decisions for himself—even if it means he ends up alone.


6. Pg. 2187

“And then his father came up beside him where he stood before a tattered last year’s circus poster…”

By putting Abner and a circus poster together, Faulkner allows the reader to connect the characters’ lives as circus like. Abner lives a life in and out of court because he obsessively burns down barns—moving from one barn to the next. Also, his family follows him as mindlessly as the animals within a circus follow the ring leader. There is no sense to it all—just madness and confusion.


Ultimately, the passages pointed out here lead to what the story is really about: a coming-of-age story about a boy making decisions—especially moral ones—for himself. The passages allow insight into a family filled with despair and surrounded by brokenness—they just live a life of chaos. Also, the story explores what is really meant by blood loyalty—should one be loyal to the point of destruction? Faulkner creates a challenging short-story with themes that should be reflected upon—themes that many people have encountered themselves when struggling to make their own decisions.


Passagist- Aaron Baken


Passage 1- Pg. 2180 last paragraph

"You were fixing to tell them. You would have told him."


This passage is important to the reading because it shows the honesty of the youngest boy. It shows that the kid wanted to do the right thing and that he didn’t agree with what his father was doing. It shows the character of the young boy.


Passage 2- Pg. 2181 end of first paragraph

"Later, twenty years later, he was to tell himself, If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have hit me again. But now he said nothing. He was not crying. He just stood there. Answer me, his father said"


This passage is important because it not only shows the good intentions of the boy, but it also foreshadows what is going to happen. It lets the readers know that even twenty years later the boy still disagrees with his father. It shows that the boy doesn’t become something like his father.


Passage 3- Pg. 2182 second full paragraph

"Get out of my way, nigger, his father said, without heat too, flinging the door back and the Negro also and entering, his hat still on his head."


This passage is important because it shows the character of the father. It shows his lack of respect for other people, and other peoples stuff. While reading this passage one gets a clear understanding of the father’s character. It shows his harsh nature and his disregard for others.


Passage 4- Pg. 2186 first paragraph

"Burnt? the Justice said. Do I understand this rug was burned too?"


This passage is important because it foreshadows what is going to happen. He basically indicates that the father plans to burn the man’s house.


Passage 5- 2187 last paragraph

"I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again. Only I can't. I can't.."


This passage is important because it shows the boys desire to be away from his family. This passage also shows what is going to happen. It some what indicates what is going to happen at the end.



Generalist Questions:


1. Fathers relationship with the sons.

At the beginning of the story the boy is in the “courthouse” and when the judge calls him to come up to the front, he starts to think to himself what his father might be thinking. He immediately says to himself that the judge and a Mr. Harris are against him and his father. I thought it was strange because as the story goes on there is no real emotional connection between him and his father, the type of connection that shows a thick bond between people. There is a relationship which is totally run by the father, but the father never seems to open up to the children and the children never really know what will happen to them next.


2. Damnation-Page 2179

Mr. Harris says the word during the court hearing of the original barn burning that takes place before the story begins, and I think that it sums up most of the life of the boys father. It seems to be appropriate in a time where rugged individuals seemed to be cursed, and always have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which Mr. Snopes does consistently. He has a mystery about him from the very beginning when he is described as a slender, wiry man who walks with a limp and when ever he speaks it seems to be in a cold and harsh voice, no matter who he talks to. Every time the story mentions him it wreaks of a man who is alone and alienated from the world, unable to draw comfort from the littlest of things of life.


3. The reference to the fathers boots when he walks on wood planks.

I thought that this was interesting because it comes from the boy’s perspective of the father. He sees his father for who he really is, but if one were to only hear the sound of the boots, they are implied to think that a large man of strength would be coming towards them, which is not the case but actually the opposite. As the boy describes this event he also talks about some of the other things about his father, how the formal coat which his dad wore was now a different color then when it was originally purchased, and his sleeve was too large. These things seemed to identify his father as someone who did not follow the regular rules of society, and he probably didn’t care what other people thought about him or his family.

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