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What is Faulkner's message in "Barn Burning"?

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When they arrive at the barn, Abner tells Sarty to hold his horse while he goes into the barn to steal some of Thomas' corn. Abner disappears into the barn and after waiting for some time, Sarty hears shouting and then a gunshot. He goes into the barn where he finds that Abner has shot Thomas McCaslin's dog over Thomas' protests. He sees blood on Abner'

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"Barn Burning," as many of Faulkner's other works, is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi in the decades after the Civil War. An overarching theme is the class and racial struggles of the South after its defeat and how the old South of the slave plantations with its Anglophilia and gentility is fading, but the new South has yet to develop a cohesive culture and community. Faulkner is trying to portray for the reader the ways in which the changing nature of the South and the aftermath of the war affect individual characters.

In the character of Abner Snopes, Faulker shows how class resentment of the poor for the rich is mixed with a sort of racialized notion of the entitlement in whites. Snopes sees poverty and servitude as fitting for blacks but not for himself; his character illustrates the corrosive effect of white entitlement. Another thing shown in the story is that because Snopes lacks authority in the greater world he acts as a petty tyrant towards his wife and children to compensate.

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Faulkner is exploring a few ideas in "Barn Burning." It is, as many note, a coming-of-age story as Sarty realizes that his own way of thinking and valuing is beginning to depart from his family's, in particular his father's. Sarty lacks the rage that burns inside his father and ultimately comes to reject his father's misguided attempts to enact his distorted sense of justice by burning the barns of men who hold power over him.

Faulkner is also observing the long-held racism of parts of Southern society. Abner Snopes' final victim, Major de Spain, seems not entirely white, by Abner Snopes' estimation. It is clear that he resents his station in life as a sharecropper, likely relating it in his mind as an occupation for black people. The fact that de Spain has wealth and power triggers and perhaps intensifies his deep resentment of being left behind in a growing Southern economy.

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I think the biggest debate that this excellent story brings up is the internal conflict that Sarty faces. He has to choose between his own inner conscience and what he thinks is right on the one hand and then on the other hand his concept of loyalty and love to his family. Sarty is forced to make this decision, and the way that he chooses to go for what he believes is right marks the ending to this excellent story.

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This is quite a broad question, but I will attempt to speak to Faulkner's purpose in writing "Barn Burning" by explaining what “Barn Burning” is really about. On the surface, it is the story of a family who moves from town to town when the patriarch of the family, Abner Snopes exacts his own justice against those who he feels have offended him by burning down their barns. Looking closer, however, “Barn Burning” is a study of the different ideas of justice as seen through the eyes of two very different generations: Abner’s and his son, Sarty’s.  For Sarty, this story is his coming – of – age, his chance to rebel against the ideas his father holds. Abner is ruled solely by his ego. He runs his life and his family based only on his own selfish desires, whereas Sarty tries to find a place in a much larger moral context.  He, unlike his father, does not believe in the rather animalistic notion of “an for an eye,” rather Sarty believes in higher ideals of law and justice. In his, and most people’s minds, his father has no right to take the law into his own hands because it has disastrous consequences.

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