Discussion Topic

Opinions on the writing style of "Barn Burning."

Summary:

The writing style of "Barn Burning" is often described as complex and richly detailed. Faulkner uses long, intricate sentences and employs a stream-of-consciousness technique that provides deep insight into characters' thoughts and emotions. This style can be challenging but also deeply rewarding, offering a profound exploration of themes such as loyalty, conflict, and morality.

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What is your opinion about "Barn Burning"?

The story is relatively short, but there is a lot of potential items to discuss. I recommend exploring your opinions about a theme or two found in the story. For example, explain what you thought about the theme of family throughout the story. Sarty knows that he should stand by his father and his family, but he also has a strong sense of justice and doing what is right. This is actually kind of amazing considering that his father probably didn't model that kind of worldview to him. Tell your reader what you think about Sarty breaking from the bonds of his family obligations to do what is right.

Alternatively, you could tell your reader about your opinions regarding certain characters. I like Sarty, and he can be fun to discuss, but I would much rather talk about Abner. He's a brilliant character. Personally, I love him. He's a horrible person, but he is just a wonderful character because of how he simply doesn't care about offending those who are in power over him. He's got a huge chip on his shoulder, and it negatively impacts his family over and over again; however, he's unable to stop himself. Perhaps it's a bad analogy, but Abner reminds me of watching NASCAR. I don't like NASCAR, but I will watch it every now and again in hopes of seeing an epic crash. I don't like Abner, but I do like watching him crash and create problems.

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What is your opinion on the writing style of Barn Burning?

In "Barn Burning," William Faulkner uses a mix of all of what Walker Gibson calls "Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy."  Just look at the first two sentences:

The store in which the justice of the Peace's court was sitting smelled of cheese. The boy, crouched on his nail keg at the back of the crowded room, knew he smelled cheese, and more: from where he sat he could see the ranked shelves close-packed with the solid, squat, dynamic shapes of tin cans whose labels his stomach read, not from the lettering which meant nothing to his mind but from the scarlet devils and the silver curve of fish - this, the cheese which he knew he smelled and the hermetic meat which his intestines believed he smelled coming in intermittent gusts momentary and brief between the other constant one, the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood.

The first sentece is fairly simple and straightforward: 15 words, all of which are high-frequency, with one interrupter, and a passive verb.  The second sentence is a 116-word behemoth that, according to eNotes:

...contains between twelve and sixteen clauses, depending on how one parses it out; its content is heterogeneous, moving from Sarty's awareness of the smell of cheese in the general store through the visual impression made by canned goods on the shelves to the boy's sense of blood loyalty with his accused father.

Walker Gibson lists this passage as "Mixed" with a score of 8 parts "Tough"; 5 parts "Sweet"; and 7 parts "Stuffy."  He says:

Very interesting mixture, with lush effects of Sweetness and Stuffiness to qualify the simplicity of the diction.  (Four-fifths of these words are monosyllables!)  Faulkner is generous with adjectives (Sweet) and with subordinate clauses (Stuffy); he is free with "self-embedding" structures (Stuffy); his repetitions of the "the" are extraordinary (Tough).  It is of course a very exciting style which fits no pat classification; the [style] machine cannot touch whatever it is that holds this together.

What Gibson is saying is that Faulkner has a style all his own.  Like the perspectivist narrative style in which he shifts point of view, time, and consciousness, so too does Faulkner invent a word choice and sentence structure that shifts between all styles.  His writing is stream of consciousness, both polished and haphazard.  Even though the point of view is largely confined to Sarty Snopes consciousness, Faulkner intrudes on it with his own stylized intrusion.

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What is the style of "Barn Burning"?

In typical Faulkner style, Barn Burning infuses a myriad of literary licenses aimed to create a connection between the reader and the story. In the case of Barn Burning the first thing that stands out from Faulkner's creative license is the use of very long sentences- some of them containing up to sixteen independent or dependent clauses. The result is constant and non-stop description, narrative, and action.

This "Faulkner rambling" is characteristic for the inclusion of the many sensations that Sarty experiences now that, for the first time, he becomes aware of the disconnect between his mentality and that of his father.

As a growing, young man, Sarty is starting to discover life on his own. Young men in the Old South, especially, are given the chance to freely explore and indulge in their senses. Sarty has to develop these sensations under the guard of his senseless father. The result of Sarty's emotional state going randomly from his loyalty to his father to his own personal growth creates what is known as a stream of consciousness narrative. This is a way of telling a story in a sort of convoluted way which can go from past to present, or vice versa. The narrative does not have to flow in perfect rythm. Instead, it can be interrupted, and it can focus on several themes in no particular order.

One final observation on the style of Barn Burning is that the story is told from the perspective of Sarty, who is a ten year old boy. No matter who else takes part in the story, we will experience, feel, and witness everything from a ten year old's view. This entails two things: First, that if the story were to be told from another character's point of view, the story may lose some of its emotional appeal. Second, that the story may also be slightly exaggerated given that ten year old is a more emotional and impressionable witness than the average adult narrator.

In all, Barn Burning (like any other Faulkner story) is unique and full of a diversity of literary devices that make it fun and quick to read. Yet, the style also appeals to the natural curiosity of the reader and connects the reader to the story, effortlessly.

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