Cultural Criticism of “Barn Burning”
factors in how one would live his or her life. The only way he can retain his own dignity in
the end is to believe in his own courage and goodwill.
The young boy, Sartoris, has a kind of loyalty for his father, Abner Snopes. He
because Sarty is too young and can not be used as the key witness, but the judge tells
while Sarty thinks to himself how he must not talk to the white men. “Our enemy… ourn!
mine and hisn both! He’s my father!” (397). He sees the white men in the courthouse as
He only believes so because that is how he was raised to believe.
that some of the things his father does is wrong, he decides to run off and be on his own
because he does not want to live that way anymore. Sarty has moved out of childhood,
developing a mind and will of his own. He is no longer unperceptively loyal to his father.
When he warns de Spain of his barn burning, Sarty becomes disloyal to his father and his
oppression, but Sarty does not do this. After they flee the country, Abner is still abusive
to his family. Abner Snopes is full of hatred and he is always ready to defend himself even
Sarty must choose to either follow the law or to choose the same path his father
did, a life that satisfied himself and no one else. The first time Sarty had to choose
between the law and his father he chose his father. He did not know much, only that the
white men were enemies and that he had to stick to his own blood. He was used to his
natural instincts and the teaching of his own heritage. That was not the case the second
time around. As he got older, he got smarter. He realized that the confrontations that his
father put him in were not right. When Abner goes to burn the barn in the new country,
father and does the right thing. He tells de Spain of his father’s intentions and then runs
away. When Sarty makes his lonesome decision to do the right thing, he goes against
everything that he has ever been taught. He defies his own blood and generations of his
family’s conventional beliefs.
vice-versa, he wants his audience to take notice and hopefully do something about it.
“niggers”. Faulkner uses those words repeatedly throughout this story to show the
blacks being persecuted because of their skin color. Therefore, Abner Snopes was the
type of person with a chip on his shoulder. Abner Snopes brought trouble where ever he
went. When he ruined de Spain’s expensive carpet, he couldn’t care less about it. So,
when he was ordered to pay for it, he decided to burn down de Spain’s barn instead.
Abner Snopes is the antagonist in Sarty’s moral conflict. Abner can not control
response to his enemy is to destroy their private property. Thus, he becomes the enemy
In addition, when Abner had to face the courthouse, he knew nothing more than
what he was raised to do, and that was to either fight back or have a cold shoulder.
When Sarty kindly asks his father if he can help clean the rug, Abner completely ignores
having to do this humiliating task. Abner becomes an enemy to society when he gets like
this. With this in mind, Faulkner’s use of this setting deepens the plot. He allows his
the black man in the South in the early 1900’s. This story deals partly with racial
discrimination and oppression of a certain social class. It also deals with how a young
man (Sarty) can deal with the situation he is borne into. He can either rise to the
occasion and beat the odds and become a better man, or he can follow in the footsteps
of his father and his father before him. He came to a certain point in his life where one
decision could determine what kind of person he would be. He made the right choice. He
followed the law instead of being a bitter man toward the white race like his father turned
out to be. This story can be deceptive in its simplicity. It is simply a matter of a young
man choosing between right and wrong.