Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Barn Burning." William Faulkner.

Review: The cold, heartless, passionless personality of Snopes. Accused of one barn burning at the beginning of the story, let go for lack of evidence, he is a man who lives for revenge at every slight, sometimes by burning barns. The story is told through the eyes of the little boy. Snopes, the father walks into his new employer’s house by the front door and spoils the fancy $100 rug, is ordered to clean it, but in doing so, practically destroys it. Told by his employer that the ruined rug will come out of his wages in October when the corn is harvested, Snopes intends to burn his employer’s barn. But the little boy warns the employer, who shoots his father at the burning barn. The boy walks off and doesn’t look back.

As always, Faulkner paints the setting  skillfully, describes how the rural South looks, tastes, smells and feels. The coldness, hardness, hopelessness of the amoral Snopes. And his young son who wants to do the right thing, who loves and fears his father.

Why read it? To understand how a loser feels and responds to his losing. The mood of his family’s hopelessness. The boy’s courage in trying to do the right thing, in spite of his love for and fear of his father.

Short Story Masterpieces. Ed. RP Warren and A Erskine. New York: Dell Books. 1954.

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