Student Question

What is the significance of the following quote in "Barn Burning"?

"Later, twenty years later he was to tell himself, 'If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have hit me again.' But now he said nothing. He was not crying. He just stood there. 'Answer me,' his father said."

Expert Answers

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The importance of this quote lies in the way that it uncovers the peculiar dynamic of the relationship between Sarty and his father, Abner Snopes. As we read the story, we become increasingly aware of the way in which Sarty and his family are trapped thanks to their father's cycle of vengeance and anger against those who are above him in society and he has to work for. This quote occurs after Sarty and his family have been forced yet again to leave a community after his father engaged in arson. Abner accuses his son of being on the point of telling the court that it was his father that burnt the barn. The appeal that Sarty would make twenty years in the future to "justice" and "truth" only serves to highlight the way in which Abner Snopes lives life by his own distorted and unscrupulous moral code where such concepts do not exist and family loyalty is the prime consideration. However, Sarty has learnt very quickly that such appeals would only yield further violence towards him and his silence speaks volumes.

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