Discussing “Barn Burning”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • What’s the significance of the final line in the story?
  • Considering he liked setting fires, why did Abner Snopes build such small fires on regular nights?
  • What was Abner Snopes’ real involvement in the war? What does this mean about him? About his son’s view of him?
  • What does Abner Snopes ruining the de Spains’ rug symbolize?
  • Why does Faulkner continuously compare Abner Snopes to tin?

period 2
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  • Consider the father’s relationship with wealth. His approach to the war seemed to indicate greed and materialism, yet his treatment of de Spain’s carpet points to a resentment of wealth. Do you think the father desires wealth? Why or why not? What other priorities interact with his desire for wealth, or lack therefore?
  • While the battle between “blood” and “law” is one that permeates the entire story, the narrator has a clear shift between taking a beating for his family’s honor in the beginning and betraying his father in the end. What might have caused this shift?
  • Faulkner opens the story with a description of the first court’s smell of cheese, filling the rest of the paragraph and even page with vivid descriptions of food and other sensory images that may seem tangential to the story. What purpose do these sensory descriptions serve?
  • When Colonel Sartoris and his father come across the de Spain’s house, the boy is awestruck and forgets about most everything else. What does this reveal about Colonel Sartoris’s views of the world? His relationship & similarities/differences with his father?

period 3
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  • Why was the son named Colonel Sartoris?
  • Why did Abner Snopes lie about his role in the Civil War?
  • Why did the father believe Colonel Sartoris Snopes would have told the judge? Why does he lie about his intentions even though he was not going to tell the judge what his father did?
  • Why does Colonel Sartoris Snopes decide to run?
  • In the end of “ Barn Burning” does Colonel Sartoris regret his decision to run?

36 thoughts on “Discussing “Barn Burning”

  1. Danielle W

    In response to the first DQ from period 2, I do think that the father desires wealth. There are multiple indications of this throughout the story, one of which being that he took his sons to watch horses being presented, bought and sold, even though he could not afford one himself. They stayed there until “the sun began to slant westward”, and they did not engage in the horse sales at all, with just “the father commenting now and then on certain of the animals, to no one in particular.” The father clearly displayed an interest and a possible desire for the horses, but the inability to by one.

    Despite the father’s desire for wealth, something that I think prevents him from obtaining it is pride. From the way the story reads, it seems to me that the only thing more important to him than money is his family pride. He has a discussion with his youngest son, in which he says, “You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you. Do you think either of them, any man there this morning, would? Don’t you know all they wanted was a chance to get at me because they knew I had them beat?” To me, this displays the father’s views perfectly because it shows how he believes himself to be superior to all others, even if they have more money or status. The father’s feelings of superiority explain his disregard for the law and his disrespect of the de Spains.


  2. Danielle W

    In response to the third DQ from period 2, I think that the purpose of the sensory descriptions is to serve as a way for the reader to obtain a greater understanding of the boy. By describing what the boy is seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and tasting, the story gives the reader more access to the boy’s view of the world, thereby enabling the reader to learn more in depth about him. For example, when the story reads, “from where he sat he could see the ranked shelves close-packed with the solid, squat , dynamic shapes of tin cans whose labels his stomach read, not from the lettering which meant nothing to his mind but from the scarlet devils and the silver curve of fish”, it presents the information that the boy does not know how to read, and that he is really hungry, both of which indicate a lack of wealth.

    The sensory imagery also brings the story to life, painting a picture of the story’s events from the boy’s point of view. At times, the boy is almost positioned as an outsider, or a narrator. For instance, at one point the story describes the boy’s view of his family from atop a woodpile; “the boy watched them, the rug spread flat in the dust beside the bubbling wash pot, the two sisters stooping over it with that profound and lethargic reluctance, while the father stood over them in turn, implacable and grim, driving them though never raising his voice again.” By describing what the boy sees in such a detailed way, it not only brings the reader into the scene, but it provides insight into the family dynamic.


  3. Najda HSJ

    The last line of Barn Burning says, “He did not look back.” This last line describes the boy Sartoris Snopes who is running away from his father, his family, and the burning barn. This line shows that the boy is running away and leaving his past behind. This line is significant because it shows the beginning of a new phase in the boy’s life. He is leaving his terrible past behind, leaving his bad father, and starting his own life. Since the book ends there, the reader doesn’t know what happens to the boy. They don’t know if he makes it, if he goes back to the family, and the audience is left in the unknown. However, I think this adds to the significance. We don’t know what will happen to the boy, but we can see that he has moved on. The boy didn’t turn back, which shows that he is ready for a new life, and he is determined to start a path of freedom and independence. The line is significant because it shows the boy’s determination, maturity, and strength to move on to a new life.


  4. Najda HSJ

    In response to “What does Abner Snopes ruining the de Spains’ rug symbolize?”, I think it symbolizes the father destroying the family and taking out anger on wealth. The rug is very ornate and expensive, and it shows how wealthy some people are. By destroying the rug, it symbolizes the father’s anger at the Spains’ privilege and wealth. It symbolizes how unfair wealth distribution is. By destroying the rug, it also symbolizes the father destroying his own family. The father can be cruel to his family, and by destroying the rug, it shows him destroying his own family.



    In response to the second question for period 1, I believe that Abner Snopes’s fires represent his behavior. The fire he set to the barn is what causes the family to be exiled, and they leave at night on their wagon. At night, Abner steals some fence rails to start a fire to keep warm. The narrator suggests that if Sartoris were older, he would wonder why his father’s fire weren’t bigger. Older still, he might believe that the fires were how he spent his days when away from enemy soldiers. Then, the narrator shows the true reason behind Abner’s fires: fire spoke to some deep mainspring of his being, as the one weapon for the preservation of integrity, and hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion (148). Arbun sees fire as a sense of control and power; when his fires are small, he feels less powerful than when he set off the fire that burned the barn. He can’t control how the world treats him, but he can control fire.


  6. Grace W

    In response to DQ #4 for period 3, Colonel Sartoris Snopes decided to run away because he does not agree with his father. His father taught him from a very young age that family loyalty was the most important thing. But in recent events, Colonel is questioning his family loyalty because of his father’s actions. He doesn’t believe that barn burning and what his father is doing is right. Now he has to decide between staying loyal to his family or being loyal to himself and his morals. He chooses to be loyal to himself by running away from his family, basically throwing away everything that his father has taught him. Family loyalty is important in his family but he doesn’t agree with what his father has done, so he decides to leave his family and run away.


  7. Grace W

    In response to DQ #5 for period 3, at the end of the story, he does not regret his decision of running away. While running away was disloyal to his family, standing by his father and his family was disloyal to himself. The last line of the story says, “He did not look bad.” (p. 158). He made his decision to leave and he knows he can’t go back. He broke his family loyalty and it would be impossible to get back. While he probably has some guilt from leaving his family, the guilt he would feel if he stayed would have been much greater. He doesn’t agree with his father’s actions and can’t be loyal to him, like his father expects. I think that he doesn’t regret running away because he knows that this is best solution for him and his family.


  8. Alex P

    In response to the first DQ from period 1, the last line of the text signifies a new beginning for the boy. He is leaving behind his troubled past and his father along with it. He is running away from his worries and doubts that he had throughout the story. He was torn between family and his morals in the story so now, he is able to pursue a new life. The last line also allows for the reader to wonder what his future will be like. Because the story ends there, it creates a sense of mystery as to what happens to the boy on his new journey.


  9. Alex P

    In response to the fourth DQ for period 1, Abner destroying the rug represents his abusive personality in the story. Throughout the story he is abusive towards his family which is one outlet that he lets his anger out on. The job of fixing the rug was given to him by someone much wealthier than him which could have triggered an angry and frustrated response because he desires that type of wealth, but knows he will never have it. Destroying the rug was another outlet for this. In the story, Abner does many reckless and destructive things that cause his family to be destroyed in the end. His reckless nature allows his true personality to be revealed and ridiculed by his son. Destroying the rug symbolizes everything else he destroyed in the story, physical and relationships.


  10. LUKE L

    In response to the second question by period 2, I think there was no specific moment when Colonel changes his mind, rather that is natural growth of his character. Our family is the first group we associate with or can relate to. Therefore it’s only natural to defend your family despite doing so goes against your morals. In the court debate between Mr. Harris and Mr. Snopes, Colonel is called as a witness and lies for his father despite knowing it isn’t the right thing to do. Between this court case and the ending where he chooses the law illustrates this progression. Colonel can recognize the legitimate complain of the landowner and the treatment of the rug, and his father’s unreasonable rage. When presented with the logical alternative Colonel can see why his father’s actions are wrong. The climax of the story is only the result of an escalating conflict within Colonel: loyalty to his family or his own morals.


  11. LUKE L

    In response to the second question by period 2, the sensory description serves to set the tone and atmosphere for the rest of the story. A lot of the themes throughout the story can be traced back to this opening paragraph. By comparing the court room to food, “smelled of cheese” and “silver curve” could be interpreted as something he lacks. Continuing this line of thinking, a lack of food could also represent a low income situation, which would prove to be correct later in the story.

    The second thing this passage establishes about the story is that the main character is not a proactive part of making the story progress. The story opens in a courtroom, but instead of describing what is happening around him, Colonel describes the smells of fish and cheese. This connotes to the audience that the story will be told through an reluctant participant, rather than an active one. However this would change by the climax, and this opening helps illustrates Colonels progression from a bystander to an actor.



    In response to the 4th question for period 1: The damage to the rub symbolizes Snopes frustration with wealthy people. The 100 dollar rug, valued at 20 bushels of corn by Mrs. De Spain symbolizes the gap between their classes. Mrs De Spain says to Snopes “It costs a hundred dollars. But you never had a hundred dollars,”(152). Mrs. De Spain seems more concerned with teaching him a lesson as to not step on her rugs with dirty shoes than to be compensated for the damages. She treats the corn as reparations for disrespect rather than the damage itself.



    In response to the last question for period 1: Faulkner repeatedly compares Snodes to tin because of his harsh metallic qualities. Many describe emotionless people as robots which are often made of metal. The mechanical qualities which often lack emotion is visible with Snodes. He is described as on page 149 as “something ruthlessly cut from tin, depth-less.” There is no emotion within something cut from metal. Emotion stems from the organic soft curves of life, a quality Snodes does not have.


  14. Athanasios P.

    In response to DQ 1 from period 3, I believe that Abner and his wife named their son Colonel Sartoris because Abner was attempting to create a sense of superiority for himself and his family. What led me to this assessment was Abner’s intense pride and prejudice displayed throughout the story, as well as his history with the Confederate soldier Colonel Sartoris. The fact that Abner is extremely prideful is demonstrated in many quotes, one of which is “He did not know where they were going. None of them ever did or ever asked, because it was always somewhere, always a house of sorts waiting for them a day or two days or even three days away,” (147). Here, the son Colonel Sartoris’s language conveys the idea that his family is constantly forced to move to new residences due to Abner’s behavior. Any time Abner’s ego is threatened, whether by a remark he deems offensive, humiliation, or a punishment, he retaliates by burning the perpetrator’s barn or causing some other damage that lands him in court, where he is ordered to leave the town. Abner is a poor sharecropper though, so being a lower-ranking member of society, people, such as his landlords, often threaten his pride and ego. As a result, to build up his self-image and sense of superiority, he puts down other repressed groups, such as African-Americans, as is seen when he comments on the de Spain’s mansion. “‘Pretty and white, ain’t it?’ he said. ‘That’s sweat. N***** sweat. Maybe it ain’t white enough yet to suit him. Maybe he wants to mix some white sweat with it,” (150). Here, Abner is demeaning the de Spain home and family due to the fact that they employ black laborers, saying that maybe the family painted their house white to make it whiter, so Abner is insinuating that blacks are inferior to whites. Beyond these traits of Abner, his time in the Civil War helps explain why he named his son Colonel Sartoris. Abner stated that “He was in Colonel Sartoris’ cav’ry,” but in reality, he went to war “wearing no uniform” and “as Malbrouck himself did: for booty–it meant nothing and less than nothing to him if it were enemy booty of his own” (157). Abner did not actually participate in the war; he solely looted from both sides for his benefit, then created a false narrative that he fought alongside the Confederate hero Colonel Sartoris. In conjunction, this information about Abner illuminates why his son was possibly named Colonel Sartoris. To construct a sense of superiority around himself and his family and to fortify his pride, Abner clung to his concocted association with the revered Colonel Sartoris by making him his son’s namesake. By strengthening the family’s affiliation with Colonel Sartoris, I believe Abner was aiming to command respect for the family, heighten the family’s image, and solidify his own sense of being above others.


  15. Jeremy B

    In respone to the fifth question, Faulkner compares Abner Snopes to tin to show his hard, cold nature. Abner is a man best described as cold and apathetic; he hits his son, disrespects the de Spain household, and steals horses for his own gain. As such, Sartoris sees his father as a powerful yet primitive figure in his life. This is reflected in how Abner is described when Sartoris sees him the night they were exiled, as he sees a man cut from flat tin, with a voice harsh like tin, and without heat like tin (148). Abner is compared to tin to reflect on his cold, metallic character.


  16. Athanasios P.

    In response to DQ 2 from period 3, I believe that Abner Snopes lied about his role in the Civil War due to his intense pridefulness and to not allow his reputation to be tarnished. After burning down his neighbor’s barn in the beginning of the story, Abner was brought to trial, though was not convicted due to there being insufficient evidence. Abner refused to admit to his crime, even to his family members who knew he was guilty, and the judge advised he leave the county and not return. Abner responded by saying “‘I aim to. I don’t figure to stay in a country among people who…‘ he said something unprintable and vile, addressed to no one,” (146). In this situation, Abner’s approach to addressing his wrongdoings is revealed: he refuses to acknowledge them. This is because he is extremely prideful and will not tolerate others demeaning or criticizing him, for this would damage his pride and image. Admitting to his wrongdoings would enable them to be used as ammunition to criticize him, so he denies them at all costs, not allowing his reputation to be tarnished. This behavior is applicable to Abner’s time in the Civil War, where he does not acknowledge the fact that he solely looted from both armies and instead contends that he fought in Colonel Sartoris’s cavalry. He maintains this lie to protect his reputation and in turn his image and pride.



    In response to the DQ, “What’s the significance of the final line in the story?,” from period 1, the last line of Barn Burning is, “He did not look back,” and this line follows the death of Sartoris Snopes’ father, Abnes Snopes. I find it interesting that Sartoris did not go to his family after his own father died. The significance of this line that ends the story is that it leaves the reader to their own imagination and adds some mystery to the story. The reader does not know if Sartoris will ever go back to his family or even survive life on his own. This line also marks a turning point in Sartoris’ life because he had always obeyed his father. Sartoris had always been living to please someone else other than himself. Sartoris is constantly pressured and guilted into lying for his father, for example, when Sartoris speaks to the Justice, “He ain’t done it! He ain’t burn…”(115). I think this binary of authoritative father and obedient son is flipped at the end. Because Sartoris “did not look back,” he gains the control of his future he lacked when his father was alive. I think his forward gaze at the end symbolizes Sartoris’ eyes opening to discover freedom, possibility, and a loss of his familial burdens.



    In response to the DQ, “What does Abner Snopes ruining the de Spains’ rug symbolize?, from period 1, I think this destructive act symbolizes Abner Snopes’ hatred towards the upper class. The rug is so expensive, and Abner destroys it with a passion. I think this act also symbolizes the failure Abner Snopes feels in his life. Abner is so passionate about ruining the rug that he denies his wife when she tries to stop his mistake, “the rug spread flat in the dust beside the bubbling wash pot, the two sisters stooping over it with that profound and lethargic reluctance, while the father stood over them in turn, implacable and grim,” (151). In this scene, the reader understands that Abner is proud of his actions. Their family struggles financially, and I think the failure that Abner has felt has transformed into rage and frustration towards those who have what he has always wanted.


  19. Zoe H

    Faulkner opens the story with a description of the first court’s smell of cheese, filling the rest of the paragraph and even page with vivid descriptions of food and other sensory images that may seem tangential to the story. What purpose do these sensory descriptions serve?

    I think that the vivid description of the first court’s odious stench serves to set a tone of repulsion, filth, and disgust that tints a majority of the story. While most authors focus on imagery through visual senses, Faulkner offers a unique and jarring introduction that fully summerses the reader in this world. The descriptions are so poignant that the reader initially doesn’t pay much attention to the substance of the court case, they focus on the olfactory experience of being in that crowded room. Interestingly, the pivotal word “blood” is utilized to bring these rancid descriptions into the abstract world, regarding the thoughts and feelings that they evoked. Colonel Sartoris notes, “the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood” (145). The sort of repugnance that curdles your stomach when you read these descriptions of the scent may serve to evoke the kind of disgust Colonel Sartoris feels when he is forced to lie in account of his abhorrent father. This allows the reader to better mutually recognize Colonel Sartoris, as they can really comprehend the physical feeling of his experience. The visceral reaction associated with rotting cheese is most likely more relatable to the reader than testifying for a father comparable to Abner Snopes, thus Faulkner utilizes his role as storyteller to its maximum potential by captivating his audience. There seems to be an uncanny parallel between the literal blood associated with meat and the familial sense of the term that Sartoris feels in regards to his father. The grotesque imagery of “hermetic meat” is echoed in the future by Sartoris’ wounds induced by his father.


  20. AVERY M

    In response to, “Why does Colonel Sartoris Snopes decide to run?” I drew the conclusion that Colonel runs due to a shift in his father’s behavior that allows him to break free of his grasp and take power for himself. Colonel implies that his father beat him regularly or at least often, and this he dislikes but does not question. However, after he nearly gave away his father’s secret at the first trial, he felt more of a moral obligation to free himself from the complicated relationship with his father. He defends him, yet the narrator’s insight suggests that Colonel’s actions are propelled by fear (and hate) of his father. When Abnel, for the first time, explains his reason for beating Colonel, the child’s perspective shifts. He feels an obligation to help the families that his father wishes to destroy. The passage states, “A week ago…he would have asked where they were going, but not now. His father had struck him before last night but never before had de paused afterward to explain why; it was as if the blow and the following…voice still rang…just heavy enough to prevent his soaring free of the world…but not heavy enough to keep him footed solid in it, to resist it and try to change the course of its events” (Faulkner 149). In this moment, Colonel is not strong enough to make the decision to run, since the fear of his father is too deeply rooted and fresh in his mind to go through with it. However, after he begins thinking about it, Colonel is able to break free of the power structure his father created and free himself from the toxicity of the violent cycle he lives in.


  21. Ella S

    In response to the first question, period 2: I do think that the father desires wealth. I believe that he refrained from treating de Spain’s rug well was due to his pride. He was feeling so good about himself being the new guy in town that he felt as though he wouldn’t do something like damage a rug. But, along the lines of the father desiring wealth that was prevalent a few times during the story. One moment was after the second trial about the destruction of de Spains rug when he and his sons went to the horse auction. The father in awe of the horses, “commenting now and then on certain of the animals, to no one in particular” (117). Even though the father knowingly couldn’t afford a new horse he still wanted to take part in pretending as if he could get a new one.


  22. Zoe H

    What’s the significance of the final line in the story?

    The final line of the story, “He did not look back” (158), solidifies the closure that Colonel Sartoris must face in the wake of his monumental choice to run and disobey/leave his father. This theme has been reflected in countless other short stories we have read during this unit, including “Victory Lap,” “Escape from Spiderhead,” and “Kavitha and Mustafa.” This emphasis of monumental decisions impacting the discourse of human life reveals one of the greatest, yet most simple phenomena – choice. Sartoris must confront the scathing and uncomfortable reality that his complacency with his father’s actions has a consequence. This climactic ending is deep seeded and highly anticipated throughout the story, and emblematic of Faulkner’s writing it all seems to come crashing down in the last few hundred words.This line’s simplicity in structure and language leaves the reader to interpret the significance and the consequences of Sartoris’ departure. It simultaneously creates a sense of closure and a closing of a door, yet also portray the nauseating expanse and uncertainty that the future holds.


  23. AVERY M

    In response to the question, “In the end of ‘Barn Burning’ does Colonel Sartoris regret his decision to run?” I concluded that Colonel does not, in fact, regret his decision to run. Throughout the story the child thinks about life without his father and his desire for destruction, but feels a strange sense of loyalty to his family that prevents him from speaking up for himself or his father’s victims. However, his father’s last act of desctruction is the last straw for Colonel. At first he struggles with his decision, thinking, “I could keep on…I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again. Only I can’t. I can’t” (Faulkner 155). He thinks this as he aids his father in burning yet another family’s property, wanting nothing more than to leave but held back by fear. However, after he gets up the courage to run, he has mixed feelings about his new lifestyle. He is cold, hungry, and alone. Yet, even with all of these components, the last line in the story reads, “He did not look back” (Faulkner, 158). The finality of this statement removes any possibility for the Colonel to miss his family or old life, and drives home the idea that he is ready to accept a world without fear of his father.


  24. Ella S

    In response to question 2 period 2: I believe the main reason there was a shift in honoring family to betraying it was Colonel establishing himself as a young man. He started the story seeming somewhat young and weak under his father’s control. He never had a chance to speak for himself without being punished. As the story progresses there is an obvious character growth seen in Colonel. He started to distinguish his morals from right and wrong. At the start of the story, Colonel was going to defend his father in court even though he was going to lie about his father burning the barn. But through the story Colonel starts to not take his father’s abuse and has a sense of his own thoughts. That can be seen at the end of the story when he bursts into de Spains house shouting “Barn! He cried. Barn!” (118). Meaning that he knew that his father planned on burning down de Spains barn because of the rug dispute, but Colonel didn’t want to stand with his fathers’ antics any longer. He was able to stand up for himself despite knowing there could be a punishment from his family.


  25. QUINN F

    In response to the question “What does Abner Snopes ruining the de Spains’ rug symbolize?” from Period 1’s question on “Barn Burning,” I believe that Abner Snopes ruining the de Spains’ rug symbolizes the outrage one feels being on the “wrong” end of the crooked wealth gap that is very much apparent. “People whose lives are a part of this peace and dignity are beyond his touch, he no more to them than a buzzing wasp: capable of stinging for a little moment but that’s all.”(111) In this quote, the narrator uses a metaphor comparing himself to a wasp, relating that although no one wants to be stung, the wasp itself is not a threat to you in and does no lasting harm. Abner also recognizes this power dynamic that his son sees, where he is a mere pest to the de Spains. This is why I find it peculiar that Abner decided to take this particular action of burning the rug because he knew very well it wouldn’t cause much damage to these wealthy people in the grand scheme of things.


  26. QUINN F

    In response to the question “What’s the significance of the final line in the story?” from Period 1’s question on “Barn Burning,” I believe that the significance of “He did not look back,”(120) is an outright declaration that he is contempt with his decision to leave. Although not in the actual story “Barn Burning” to further that point we can look at scenes in movies or books that support this claim. For example, at the end of one of the best movies of all time, “Casablanca,” Rick and Ilsa share a goodbye. This departure by Ilsa isn’t swift, but instead, her decision to leave is made after Rick implores to her it is essential for her to leave. In “Barn Burning” we have a departure that was not met with a second thought, but instead confidence in the decision.



    In response to DQ 3 from period 2, “Faulkner opens the story with a description of the first court’s smell of cheese, filling the rest of the paragraph … vivid descriptions of food and other sensory images … What purpose do these sensory descriptions serve?”
    Faulkner opens the story with sensory imagery, not only to pull the reader into the shoes of Colonel Sartoris Snopes, but to introduce the story’s tones. As a young boy unsure of his family’s future, the anxiety sets in as he sits down in that courthouse. The smell of food hits his nose and taps into his deep emotions. “…the cheese which he knew he smelled and the hermetic meat which his intestines believed he smelled coming in intermittent gusts momentary and brief between the other constant one, the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood.” Smelling what he thinks is meat, the deep, musty smell sends him flashes of grief, despair, fear, and the ferocity of blood. While this could be directly related to the fear experienced by slaughtered animals, it probably has more to do with setting the stage for the story’s harsh tones. Barn Burning is a very tough, gritty, story where the themes of betrayal, grief, fear and blood are used to highlight its heavy emotional tone. Using the smell of meat to highlight these emotions is an effective way to introduce the reader to the tone of the story.



    In response to DQ 3 from period 1, “What was Abner Snopes’ real involvement in the war? What does this mean about him? About his son’s view of him?
    Young Colonel Sartoris Snopes’ viewed his father as a noble soldier of the like-named Colonel Sartoris’ Cavalry. When his father is shot at the end of the story, he cries out “”He was brave!” … “He was! He was in the war! (Faulkner 157)”” Under the guise of bravery and nobility, he uses his military involvement to put his father on a moral pedestal, solidifying his familial respect for him on these terms. However, while not clear to young Sartoris, his father didn’t serve military time for a noble cause. The narrator reveals that Abner Snopes only served for financial gain, to loot out the scorched earth and live off the ransacked land, as opposed to defending the honor of his home. This does not reveal too much about Abner Snopes’ character, as he was already characterized as brutally cold, but it does affirm his attitude about war and the United States. Why should he defend his country when it has wronged him and everybody else who looks like him? Furthermore, while only ten years old, Sartoris Snopes would probably view his father in the same way he did. While he tried to defend his earlier actions, he already knew that his father had nothing noble to stand for, he stood up to him when he tried to burn down the second barn, and prevented it from happening. While his worldview is incredibly limited he would eventually understand that Abner Snopes’ actions during the war only add further context to his already defined immoral character.



    Question: In the end of “ Barn Burning” does Colonel Sartoris regret his decision to run?

    I believe that Colonel Sartoris does not regret his decision to run because by this point in the story he has already “committed” to betraying his family in a sense. This is prevalent in the quotation “He went down the hill, toward the dark woods within which the liquid silver voices of the bids called unceasing–the rapid and urgent breathing of the urgent and quiring heart of the late spring night. He did not look back”(158) at the very end of the story. In this excerpt from the short story, Colonel Sartoris is cold, and tired, but still progressing forward. Mentioning his decision not to look back shows the reader that Colonel Sartoris was very sure about his actions and had no regrets afterwards.


  30. Max L

    The son’s name is Colonel Sartoris because he is honest. On the page 108 in the packet, Faulkner writes, I reckon anybody named for Colonel Sartoris in this country can’t help but tell the truth.” This implies that the name Sartoris has a basis in honesty, and that the son is named after an honest person. Towards the end of the story, we see this when Colonel Sartoris Snopes warns the major de Spain of the impending attack on his barn, which ultimately foils his father’s plan to burn it down.


  31. Max L

    In the end of “Barn Burning” Colonel Sartoris Snopes decides to run. I do not think he regrets this decision because he is looking out for his own safety. He understands that his father will be punished for conspiring to burn de Spain’s barn, and in a corrupt justice system, he does not want to face the consequences of his father’s actions. He does not want to inherit the bad reputation that his father has, especially because he is a good-hearted, non-violent boy. He does not want to be with his family because of their inability to support him, and through his understanding of this, he decides that he must leave.


  32. Aaron Q.

    This story blends together absurdity with a harsh realism and cruelty found in its rural setting. The scene in which Abner Snopes walks inside the rich house and drags dirt on the rug is not something that would happen in real life; the level of disconnect between the black housekeepers and Abner and his son and the white rich family is significantly heightened, almost to a comical effect.

    Similarly, the son, the main protagonist, is named Colonel Sartoris after a military leader that his father served under. The actual Colonel Sartoris was a part of a lie that Abner Snopes told his son about his position during the war, which means Abner not only told his son that he had a higher importance of the war than he did but he also included his son in that lie.

    The more you think about the story the weirder Abner Snopes becomes. He is clearly lashing out against society by his barn burning demonstrations, but he also participates in society’s upheld race and family relations, but he also lies constantly. He constantly contradicts himself.


  33. Aaron Q.

    In response to the question about whether Colonel Sartoris regretted his decision to run away: maybe. The actual scene of him sleeping and then walking down the hill doesn’t really portray him as a character making a decision, but rather an empty soul being pulled on a track. The birds are loud and everywhere and they seem to be attracting him like a magnet. The whippoorwills were present throughout the story particularly when him and his father were separated. So, he might’ve regretted leaving but he wasn’t thinking about his actions.



    In response to Quinn F’s comment:

    I agree with this. I believe that the last line of the short story “Barn Burning” signifies a sense of finality and decisiveness. The line “He did not look back”(158) shows the reader that although he is betraying his family, he knows he did the right thing and thus 100% backs up his own decision with no remorse. This is a very crucial moment in “Barn Burning” because it not only closes the story but also shows character development as well. Prior to this line, he was taught to always act in support of family, regardless of moral correctness. However, by the end of the story, he changes and overcomes this personal growth hurdle and does what he believes is right.


  35. JAMES T.

    In response to the third question for period 2 I feel like the author does this to make the story more real. I feel like if the author really gives us a description of a setting and not only just a description but a description everyone knows. We really get put into that room and really feel like we’re interacting with the characters as if we are really there. I personally get more involved with a story when the author helps me picture what they are picturing. I feel like that’s why the author gives such descriptive details throughout the story just like the smell of cheese in that room.


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