Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
What baffled me most about this story is what drives the father, Abner Snopes, to these hateful acts? In short, what is Abner Snopes' problem?
The story unfolds in the back of a general store where Abner is on trial for burning down Mr. Harris' barn. Abner Snopes works as a sharecropper on Harris' land. Their dispute arose out of Snopes' hogs getting out and getting into Harris' cornfields. On the last occasion, Harris demanded a dollar for the hogs' return. This angered Snopes to the point of making threats and finally burning the man's barn down. So Snopes seems to resent landowners and their hold on people like him.
There are references in the story to Abner Snopes' career as a "privateer" (a horse thief) during the Civil war. Unlike Emily Greer in Faulkner's A Rose For Emily
—(also set in Faulkner's mythic Yoknapatawpha County)—who represents the grace, gentility and southern aristocracy of the Old South, Snopes represents the post-Civil-War class characterized by more bourgeois and materialistic values and attitudes. Frequently in Barb Burning
, Snopes is depicted as a man of rusty tin which is consistent with this mechanized view of the post-war South.
But Snopes' bitterness is a bit hard to understand. Although they don't have enough evidence to convict him for this first barn burning, he is forced to leave and take up shareholder residence elsewhere and soon is up to the same self-destructive violence. Young Sarty must ultimately choose between family loyalty—his father's idea of rough justice—and and his own emerging sense of morality.
Thanks for posting the story, Suzanne. This is a good one.