Barn Burning Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

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In "Barn Burning," how would we psychologically describe Abner Snopes?

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Abner Snopes is surely a fascinating character from this perspective. We are constantly forced to question why he is like he is and why he has set himself on such a cycle of meaningless violence and anger against those who he regards as having slighted him. If we read the story carefully, we see that he is characterised by his anger. He is always looking for an opportunity to take offence against others, and seems to deliberately provoke such opportunities, as we see when he refuses to clean his shoes before walking on the carpet of Major de Spain. We see that he is locked into his own personal hell of revenge, where he believes everybody is against him and he must take measures to avenge the many supposed wrongs that he suffers.

Note the way that he responds to Major de Spain's reasonable confrontation with Abner Snopes, when he tells Abner he will have to pay with twenty bushels of corn:

His father looked at him--the inscrutable face, the shaggy brows beneath which the grey eyes glinted coldly.

We see that Sarty's father is described as a law unto himself, with eyes that glint "coldly." He is fuse ready to be sparked by any provocation, even if he has to create that provocation himself. Psychologically, therefore, Abner Snopes has set himself against the world, and unleashes the flaming anger within him by literally setting fire to the property of others. He is a fuse that needs but the slightest of sparks to light it.

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