Barn Burning: Sarty's New Road

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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A New Road In William Faulkner's "Barn Burning," the Snopes family is stuck on a road of self-destruction and unhappiness. Abner Snopes is fighting something he cannot define or escape; yet regardless of the consequence to himself or his family, Abner is willing to fight this invisible and unknowable enemy because he believes it to be his duty. The other members of the Snopes family, for reasons they cannot define or escape, are unable to stop Abner from his destructive behavior. This all changes when Abner's youngest son, Sarty, opens his eyes to what the rest of his family cannot see. Sarty's epiphany provides him with the ability to leave the road paved by his father. However, it is not until he intentionally acts against his father"˜s will that Sarty is able to begin a journey on a new road.

When the action begins, Abner is acquitted of his latest barn burning and advised to leave the area.

Abner's reply of "I aim to. I don't figure to stay in a country among people who. . . " (494) shows that he is not exactly sure what it is that he is fighting. Nonetheless, he feels that his fight is just. He will continue to fight his unknowable enemy the only way he knows how: by burning barns.

Abner's "ferocious conviction in the rightness of his own actions," (494) was most likely beaten into him the same way he attempts to beat it into his family and his employers. Whenever anyone questions Abner's actions, he responds not with answers (he has none), but with physicality. For instance, when his wife attempts to stop him from burning another barn, he reacts by shoving her. Interestingly, the narrator describes Abner as shoving his wife "not savagely or viciously, just...