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
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