Discuss the character of Ab.  How does he view the world around him?  How does he treat his family?  What do his activities during “the war” reveal about him?  What positive qualities, if any, does he possess?

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Ab is a man who has tried to impress his son with a sense of loyalty to family above all else. We see, early on, when Sarty considers:

... his father’s enemy (our enemy, he thought in that despair; ourn! Mine and hisn both! He’s my father!).

Sarty knows that his father would have him lie to the justice presiding over the case—“And I will have to do hit,” he thinks. He is, evidently, intimidated and even fearful of his father.

When Ab finally does speak, he says “something unprintable and vile” to the court and expresses his intention to move somewhere far away from these people. His voice, when he speaks to his son, is described as “harsh” and “cold,” even after Sarty is struck to the ground by another boy. Ab doesn’t even find it necessary to tell his family where they’re moving to next, and he is described as having a “wolf-like independence”—a somewhat inappropriate quality when one has a wife and children to support. Wolves are so potentially ruthless and savage and animal in nature. He even keeps “a shrewd fire” though his family is cold; it is evident that he does not harbor feelings of tenderness for them.

Sarty realizes the reason for the small fire must be his father’s war experiences and his need to hide “from all men, blue or gray,” because he was, evidently, stealing horses. He doesn’t quite realize that the fire “spoke to some deep mainspring of his father’s being.” The narrator does say that Ab’s “wolf-like independence and even courage when the advantage was at least neutral” was something that “impressed strangers.” If we can consider these good qualities, then he does possess them.

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Abner Snope's main occupation—burning down barn—perfectly summarizes the core of his personality. He is not only hostile and angry but also self-destructive. His anger toward the unfair class system, which consigns him to the lower end of the social ladder, also damages his own family, to the point where his son Sarty betrays him to the family whose barn he wants to burn.

Abner's fury and desire for destruction tear his family apart in other ways. Just as he cannot see the people whose barns he burns as human, neither does he see his own family that way. To him, women exist to make babies and take care of the house. His own son exists to serve him and, presumably, follow in his footsteps.

Abner has no positive qualities to speak of, unless one counts sheer determination (no matter to what end it's applied) as a positive trait. He is bestial, cruel, and unfeeling—the very thing Sarty must not become.

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Abner Snopes, in Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” is a man characterized by a burning anger. He takes out this anger at the world by burning things, specifically barns, which determine people’s livelihoods at that time. He views the world around him as hostile—he believes he is fighting the world. He sees that the world holds little opportunity for him and certainly no kindness or generosity.

He treats his family as though they were objects. He has no tender feeling for him. The women are there to perform domestic functions and the boys are there for Abner to shape into men like himself. Much of his time is spent trying to teach young Sarty how to be tough and loyal to his family. His activities during the war reveal a hardness to Abner. He may have been emotionally damaged by fighting in the war or had problems there, but he never reveals what occurred. All the reader sees is a tough, relentless man, who has no respect for authority.

Unfortunately, Faulkner gives Abner few, if any, positive qualities. He continuously commits crimes regardless of his family’s welfare and shows no sign of change.

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