Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The story is not narrated by the ten-year-old Sarty, but Faulkner calls attention to the boy’s thoughts and thus to the inner conflict they represent by italicizing them. Subtle word choices also help trace Sarty’s move toward maturity and responsibility. Hearing the shots that announce his father’s death, Sarty first cries, “Pap! Pap!” but seconds later shifts to the more mature sounding “Father! Father!”
Images of cold and heat, of stiffness and metal, help characterize Abner Snopes. Snopes walks stiffly because of a wound suffered when he was caught stealing a horse during the war. However, stiffness describes his character as well as his walk. His voice is cold, “harsh like tin and without heat like tin.” His wiry figure appears “cut ruthlessly from tin.” This man who burns barns seems to save his fire for his crimes; all else he does without heat or emotion—whether it is talking, whipping a horse, or striking his son. Even the campfires he builds are niggardly. For him, fire is a means of preserving his integrity and “hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion.”
A little of Snopes’s stiffness seems to have carried over to his son at the end of the story. When Sarty awakens after the night of the fire, he is described as being a little stiff. For Sarty, however, the stiffness will not last: “Walking would cure that too as it would the cold, and soon there would be the sun.”
Compare and Contrast
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974.
Brooks, Cleanth. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1963.
Gray, Richard. The Life of William Faulkner: A Critical Biography. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1994.
Hoffman, Frederick, and Olga W. Vickery, eds. William Faulkner: Three Decades of Criticism. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960.
Inge, M. Thomas, ed. Conversations with William Faulkner. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.
(The entire section is 205 words.)