What is modernism, and how does Faulkner use its characteristics in "Barn Burning"?

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One of the central traits of modernism is alienation—alienation from the past or alienation from other people. Modernist texts try to reinvent narrative to some degree out of a realization that older narrative forms cannot explain or represent this alienation.

In Faulkner's story, the Snopes are alienated in many ways. For one thing, they are alienated by the class system and pervasive racism of the South. Snopes' penchant for setting fires, or his treatment of the rug, is an expression of his alienation from a society that has cast him off, and of his belief in his own superiority. Snopes is also alienated from his past. While he prides himself on his connection to Colonel Sartoris, that connection does not earn him any respect, and it contributes to his bitterness and anger.

From a formal perspective, the story can be considered "modernist" in that it uses a kind of stream-of-consciousness approach to telling the story from Sarty's point of view. Sarty is mystified by his father's...

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