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Themes

Unfortunately, the family situation in "Barn Burning" is atrocious. Think extreme poverty, a tyrannical barn-burning father, constant moving, and zero respect in the community. What's more, all the relationships between members of the Snopes family seems so shallow, dysfunctional, and lacking in tenderness. By focusing on a complicated and painful relationship between a father and son who have different belief systems, this story explores the tricky problem of what to do when the needs of the individual are at odds with the demands of the family.

Questions About Family

  1. How might Sarty's decision to leave home impact his mother? Sisters? Aunt?
  2. What is Sarty's relationship with his mother like?
  3. What impression do you have of Sarty's sisters? How do you think Sarty feels about the sisters? What might the story look like from their perspective?
  4. If Sarty didn't run away from his family, would he have turned out like his older brother? Why or why not?
  5. How would you describe the Snopes's home life? How will this be different without Sarty?
  6. Do you think that Abner is right that the most important thing in life is to "stick to your own blood" (29)?
  7. Do you think Abner will miss Sarty?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Sarty's brother is important to the story because he shows what Sarty would have become if he hadn't take matters into his own hands.

The fact that Sarty doesn't seem to have deep relationships with his mother and siblings contributes to his decision to leave home.

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