Running through the Fire: Barn Burning Analysis

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The title “Barn Burning” lets me know that the story will revolve itself around the fact that a particular barn is essentially burned and who or what might have done it. The beginning of the story’s tone is one that is very mundane as a son is set to testify against his father of crimes he is accused of. 10-year-old Colonel Sartoris Snopes is the main character within the story and has a dilemma he has to face that may jeopardize, not only himself but his family’s future as well. My understanding of what the author seems clear is that Faulkner wants the audience to feel pity and sympathy for a small boy fulfilling such an uncomfortable and unreasonable task.

Through the duration of the story, it takes place during the time when slavery was still very prominent, so that means ultimately it was a struggle for black men and women at this period of time. So overlooking the beginning of the story the main character Father is being accused and it seems like the trial is not fair or unjust. ( Lines 1 and 10).

“That evening a nigger came with the dollar and got the hog. He was a strange nigger”.

Simply from the language being used in that small excerpt, it’s concluded that the story must be fictionally put in the mid-1890s. It’s fair to say that Sarty and his family are an African-American family due to the unmistakable use of the word nigger in the passage. With the language and the tone of how the white men were speaking to Sarty and his father is very evident that it was not a good time for a black family at that time.

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Speaking of the black family going through hard times; the story includes a free African-American family; A father, mother, two sisters, and two sons. However, the story’s point of view is told through the mind of the youngest son named Sarty. The author focuses more on Sarty and what he is going through as a kid whose father dictates everything he must do. I believe Sarty secretly wants to not have his father rule his life and that’s noted when both the father and son set their eyes on the De Spain home (Lines 40-45). “They are safe from him.”…but that’s all; the spell of this peace and dignity rendering even the barns and stables and cribs which belong to it impervious to the punny flames he might contrive…”. The fact that Sarty feels this way towards his father hints that he does not want a part in what his father ultimately wants. He’d rather enjoy his time living with “peace” knowing his father can not do anything to render him from that. Safety is faced with this uncomfortable situation and now has to deal with how to go about living his life as a kid with an overbearing father.

The dynamic of the story is the dilemma of the son going against the father, even if that means he will not be “sticking by blood”. Sarty would do anything for his father, but it’s very clear that his father's actions aren’t morally aligned with what Sarty has in mind of what’s right (Lines 25-30). “…You got to learn to stick to your own blood…” With that in the son's thought process, the author wants the audience to believe Sarty must have undying support and respect for his father or else he has no one else to go to. If that’s not overbearing that I don’t know what that is.

Things ultimately come to an end with the father yet again lighting a barn on fire. Something that Sarty knew all too well, was astonished and scaring, contemplated whether or not he should turn his back on his father for what he was doing, or help him burn the De Spain barn (Lines 85-90).. I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again.” The tone of the story went from mundane to relief as Sarty finally decides for himself and hurdles to his freedom. Not only from Major de Spain but the one he despised even more which was his father.

It’s scary to know that a 10-year-old child or any child at all was going through such a trying time with their only father. My interpretation of the story was led by how uncomfortable Sarty was to abandon everything he called family and find his own peace. And in finding his peace he had to do the only thing he could think of when getting away from his problems; which was to run away from them and never look back.

The story led with Sarty scared to disobey his father's wishes. With no strong intentions of doing so, Sarty begins to slowly battle within He faces trouble with his overbearing father who has no real good motives Sarty can truly understand. When the father then burns yet another barn Sarty realizes what he must ultimately do. He runs and runs and never looks back.

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Running through the Fire: Barn Burning Analysis. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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