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Barn Burning by William Faulkner

Destruction by burning can be seen in more than one way in "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner. The most obvious act of burning down barns is an outward expression of Abner's inner turmoil for the life he bitterly hates. The impact of Abner's violence can be seen in Abner's family, especially Sarty as he comes to see the destruction his father causes. This paper will examine the impact of Abner's anger and how it effects his family. Abner's anger causes his son to feel distant from him. We can see how Sarty comes to realize this only as a grown man when we are told, "Later, twenty years later, he was to tell himself, `If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have hit me again'" (477). We can also pull from the text that Abner is able to tolerate his landlords' insults because he knows he can always get even by burning a barn. It seems as though Abner experiences great pleasure of being able to determine the time and place of a burning--generally after he has found another place for the family to live. The burning not only allows Abner to control his own anger; the burning allows him to control his landlord's reaction. Because he is burning down precious property, Abner almost guarantees his escape because the landlord will work to put out the fire than chase after Abner and his family. The fires Abner sets serve as reminders for his family as well as serving as a reminder for Abner to control his rage. Because the fires are so well controlled, they represent Abner's passion and energy. This result of this passion is Abner's one and only tool he has to wage war on his landlords. In fact, we are told it is, "the one weapon for the preservation of integrity, else breath were not worth the breathing, and hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion" (476). Sarty spends most of the story trying to avoid reacting to his father's anger focusing more on his father'...

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Barn Burning by William Faulkner. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:50, March 28, 2015, from