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A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner 
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Post A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
Barn Burning

This short story by William Faulkner is a haunting tale of how a parent’s compulsion can destroy a family; however, it is also a tale of strength. The writing is powerful and rich.

http://www.rajuabju.com/literature/barnburning.htm



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Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:29 pm
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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
Suzanne wrote:
Barn Burning

This short story by William Faulkner is a haunting tale of how a parent’s compulsion can destroy a family; however, it is also a tale of strength. The writing is powerful and rich.

http://www.rajuabju.com/literature/barnburning.htm


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.


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Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:27 am
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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
geo wrote:

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?


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.


I liked the story too. It is a richly drawn vignette, that left me wanting more of the story. My impression of Abner Snopes is that he is a criminal at core; maybe an arsonist. Faulkner tells us that he is not loyal to either side in the Civil War and it is indicated that he was a horse thief even then. An oddity of the story is the boy's name, Colonel Sartoris Snopes. How could anyone give that name to their son and why on earth would Abner name his son after a commanding officer.

He was in Colonel Sartoris' cav'ry!" not knowing that his father had gone to that war a private in the fine old European sense, wearing no uniform, admitting the authority of and giving fidelity to no man or army or flag, going to war as Malbrouck himself did: for booty - it meant nothing and less than nothing to him if it were enemy booty or his own

My bold, had no idea who Malbrouck is or what the reference meant. And I found this:

Malbrouck goes off to the war
18th‐cent. Fr. nursery song. In Britain the tune is sung to either 'For he's a jolly good fellow', or 'We won't go home until morning'. Sung to various different sets of words, it has enjoyed great European popularity. It is usually stated that 'Malbrouck' refers to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, but the name is found in medieval literature.


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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
geo wrote:
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?


Maybe Abner was born with bad blood?

Quote:
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, else breath were not worth the breathing, and hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion.


These are Sarty's words. Some men have the need to use guns of steel in their blood as their weapons of integrity, dad had fire. Is Faulkner saying that people can be born with bad blood? Blood is mentioned several times in the story.

After this passage the father says to Sarty that Sarty better know what blood he is from and better stick to his blood. So when dad and older son go up to the big house they try to tie Sarty up, because they know Sarty does not have their blood. Sarty has his aunts blood. The aunt wants Sarty to go up there and warn the land owners knowing what would happen to dad and older brother.

Sarty is the hero in this story, but you got to love that aunt!



Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:42 pm
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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
Whenever Abner talks about blood, he's talking about kin. He tells Sarty that he had better stand by his family or he would have no one to stand by him. Young Sarty tries to steel himself to lie for his father in that first scene by identifying everyone in the room as "enemies." Sarty is about to testify, but then both Harris and the judge change their minds. Everyone can see that the boy is terribly conflicted and even Harris doesn't want to put the boy in that position.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, William 
Faulkner identified some of the themes in his fiction, including “the problems of the human heart in conflict
 with itself.” Young Sarty has to make a decision to either continue covering for his father's burning acts which he feels are wrong or break from his family altogether.

I read something this morning about Abner Snopes that makes a lot of sense. He's engaged in a kind of class warfare which is why he resents de Spain later in the story. When Abner arrives at the house of Major de Spain, the owner on whose land the family will work, he comments that the house was built on slave labor. Abner probably recognizes that sharecroppers like himself are the new slave in this fast-changing social tapestry and he tracks horse manure on the white carpet which sets up the final conflict in the story.

Both "A Rose For Emily" and "Barn Burning" are set in Faulkner's mythic Yoknapatawpha County. The stories contain similar references to the South prior to and after the Civil War. Sarty's namesake is Colonel John Sartoris who was the mayor to whom Miss Emily refers in the matter of her delinquent taxes. Abner was apparently in Col. Sartoris' cavalry unit during the Civil War at least until he started stealing horses. His career as a horse thief and his decision to name his son "Sarty" after Col. John Sartoris are events featured in Faulkner's novel The Unvanquished (1938). This would be an interesting novel to discuss here on Booktalk perhaps?


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Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:51 am
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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
I understand that blood means kin. The Aunt is no blood relation to Abner but she is still kin. However the Aunt is both blood relation and kin to Sarty. So when I see the honorable behavior from Sarty I feel that he is capable of that behavior due to the Aunts blood. Abner is incapable of behaving in such a manner. With Abner and big brother gone the family is free of the " bad blood". This is just something I took away from the story.



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Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:04 am
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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
I'll have to reread the story. I don't recall mention of an aunt. But Sarty is deliberately choosing to break away from the destructive ways of his father. Maybe Faulkner is using blood to mean more than one thing. Interesting.


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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
Suzanne, what happened to your last post? I was going to say I love the idea of pairing Rocking Horse Winner with Barn Burning. That's a great idea. Regarding Faulkner, I've not read much of his work, but it seems that you would get a lot of intertextual synergy (I just made that up!) by reading his fictional Yoknapatawpha County stories. The stories in The Unvanquished relate the life of Colonel John Sartoris and his son, Bayard, both during the Civil War and during the reconstruction era after the war. The Unvanquished is described as a relatively linear narrative originally published as a series of short stories. Oh well, you can probably see I have a hankering to read this.

In the meantime, you all want to read and discuss Joyce Carol Oates' Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

http://www.usfca.edu/jco/whereareyougoing/


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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
geo wrote:
Suzanne, what happened to your last post? I was going to say I love the idea of pairing Rocking Horse Winner with Barn Burning. That's a great idea. Regarding Faulkner, I've not read much of his work, but it seems that you would get a lot of intertextual synergy (I just made that up!) by reading his fictional Yoknapatawpha County stories. The stories in The Unvanquished relate the life of Colonel John Sartoris and his son, Bayard, both during the Civil War and during the reconstruction era after the war. The Unvanquished is described as a relatively linear narrative originally published as a series of short stories. Oh well, you can probably see I have a hankering to read this.

In the meantime, you all want to read and discuss Joyce Carol Oates' Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

http://www.usfca.edu/jco/whereareyougoing/


I love to read short stories. In fact, am currently reading an old textbook of short stories, cast off by a daughter, with a big black Permanent marker 49 written on the page sides of the book to identify it as a school book. Last night I read "Rope" by Katherine Anne Porter. Great little story. I also really like the idea of pairing stories together for discussion (I've done it with a group of co-workers over lunch). I'm in for the discussion of the Oates' story. As long as I'm going on about what I like, I like Faulkner! I've read As I lay Dying. It is one of the Yoknapatawpha books. Wendle Berry also has a set of books that take place in a fictional county. Like Faulkner's setting it is a rural county, but not in the south, rather the Mid-West. One of those books, Berry's Jabber Crow is one of my all-time favorite books.


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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
geo wrote:
Suzanne, what happened to your last post?


Oh, thought I was getting a bit off topic and deleted it. But yes, those two stories made for a great compare/contrast essay. An idea for one of your classes maybe?

I also love short stories. I have just discovered Walter Mosley. The couple stories I have read I have liked. Have either of you ever read anything by Italo Calvino? Boy is he a strange egg.

geo wrote:
you all want to read and discuss Joyce Carol Oates' Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?


Sure thing. Thanks for the link.

Saffron wrote:
As long as I'm going on about what I like, I like Faulkner!


I do too! I love the rich, meaty texture to his writing. One of my favorite book discussions here on BT was "The Sound and the Fury".

geo wrote:
The stories in The Unvanquished relate the life of Colonel John Sartoris and his son, Bayard, both during the Civil War and during the reconstruction era after the war. The Unvanquished is described as a relatively linear narrative originally published as a series of short stories. Oh well, you can probably see I have a hankering to read this.


I have this collection so I can read along with you. Maybe we will come across some intertextual synergy! :)



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Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:28 pm
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Post Re: A free online short story; "Barn Burning", William Faulkner
I've read some of Wendell Berry's essays and I have one of his novels in my collection which I haven't read yet. Sorry, can't recall which one. So many books.

This particular Oates story is dark, but oddly (to me) not very compelling. And, yet, it's a good story to discuss. The link I provided is from Oates' own web site. I'll start a new thread and just chime in if you feel like it.


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