Study Guide

Barn Burning Courage

By William Faulkner

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"Barn Burning" is the story of a brave ten-year-old, Sarty Snopes. His life is scary, mostly because his father is a domineering man who burns down wealthy landowners' barns in his spare time. Sarty is overworked, underfed, and underpaid. Plus he gets no respect. However, he has an intense sense of justice, and know the difference between right and wrong. When this sense of justice becomes stronger than the pull of his father, Sarty makes the courageous decision to act against his father. Throughout the story, Sarty must deal with the question of his father's bravery – or lack thereof. Even though he leaves his father he still wants to see him as a brave man. If you like stories of courage and adventure, or if you're wrestling with the idea of bravery, yourself, this classic won't fail to satisfy.

Questions About Courage

  1. Is there anything brave about burning barns? Why or why not?
  2. Is Sarty brave? Was it brave for him to leave home? Would it have been more or less brave for him to stay and try to work things out?
  3. The narrator wonders if Sarty would still think Abner was brave if he knew Abner wasn't really a war hero. What do you think?
  4. Can someone be fearless, but not courageous? Or courageous, but afraid? Do any characters in the story fit these descriptions?
  5. Would Abner see Sarty's action in the final sections of the story as brave?

Chew on This

In William Faulkner's "Barn Burning" the cowardice of Abner Snopes inspires the courage of his son, Sarty.

Abner Snopes is a coward because he terrorizes innocent people, but he is also brave because he chooses to live outside the society he thinks is corrupt.

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