Study Guide

Barn Burning Family

By William Faulkner


Enemy! Enemy! (10)

At the beginning of the story, Sarty seems to place a high premium on loyalty to his father. His father's enemies are his enemies, and presumably vice versa. He seems to even feel his father's blood inside him, connected to him. It's when he realizes that the loyalty only goes one way that he truly yearns to break the connection.

That night they camped in a grove of oaks and beeches where a spring ran. (127)

Sounds like a beautiful campsite. Unfortunately, with Abner around, nobody in the family will probably be able to enjoy it much. The natural surroundings are a sharp contrast to Abner's unnatural control.

"Abner! No! No! Oh, God. Oh, God. Abner!" (85)

Well, now we know how Abner's wife feels about the barn burning. We realize that for her, like for Sarty, barn burning is the family's biggest problem. Plus, they've only been there for four days. If Abner burns down the de Spain barn, they'll have to move again, which is hard work for everyone.

"Lemme go" he cried. "I don't want to have to hit you!" (98)

These lines, lifted from one of the few scenes inside the Snopes's shack, bring home just how bad things are for this family. A mother forced to restrain her son from alerting the neighbor that his barn is about to be burned by her husband. We don't know if Sarty would have hit her, but the line shows how the violent atmosphere of the Snopes's home breeds violence, even in Sarty.

[…] and he sat now, his back toward what he had called home for four days now […]. (108)

The narrator is careful to show that Sarty is quite literally turning his back on his family. Does it seem odd to you that he doesn't seem to think about his mother, sisters, and brother, but only about his father? Furthermore, if Sarty thinks his father is dead, why doesn't he just go home to his mom?