Barn Burning Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

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How would you account for the actions of the father, who burned the first barn, went through the rug incident, and is going to burn the second barn? What is motivating the father to do these things?

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In “Barn Burning,” Abner Snopes, the father of Colonel Sartoris Snopes, commits vandalistic actions—burning barns and ruining an expensive rug—that result from his deep-seated anger and feeling of injustice for stratification in society.

Faulkner describes Abner’s appearance and movements as “stiff.” Abner is harsh toward his own family and unbending in his resolve to avenge any wrongs he feels. As an itinerant sharecropper, he depends on and is indebted to wealthier landowners for making his living and supporting his family. At the beginning of the story, he is on trial for burning down landowner Mr. Harris’s barn in retaliation for Mr. Harris making him pay to return his escaped hog. Previously, Mr. Harris purchased for Abner the wire for fencing that he needed to contain his hog. This gesture seemed to offend and injure Abner’s pride, and Abner burned down Mr. Harris’s barn.

Before even meeting the next wealthy landowner (Mr. de Spain) whose land he will work and who...

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