A Troubled Relationship in “Barn Burning” In “Barn Burning”, by WilliamFaulkner, the father/son relationship, between Abner Snopes and his youngestson, Colonel Sartoris Snopes (Sarty), is troubled and sad. Abner is a troubled man that has angerproblems and this affects his family greatly. The relationship that suffers most is that between him and Sarty. The young boy is torn between a moral standpoint and the sense of loyalty to his father. Although the boy loves his father, he does not approve of hisactions. The type of relationship thatthey possess is a love hate relationship and is very detrimental to the family’svalues and morale. Sarty has a conflict with his consciouswhen he is asked to tell the Judge that his father is responsible for a barnburning in the community.
Abner makesthe boy feel as if he has to lie about the barn burning. In the text the father tells ColonelSartoris, “You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going tohave any blood to stick to you” (Faulkner 1735), this statement confuses thechild more. Sarty amazingly had a senseof right and wrong despite the wickedness of his father. He is scared of his father and seeshim as a silhouette. He feels as if hisfather is shallow and cold. This isevident in the text when it reads, “something cut ruthlessly from tin,depthless, as though, sidewise to the sun, it would cast no shadow” (Faulkner1736), explaining the impression Abner has on Sarty. Faulkner describes Abner’s face as having a,”harsh level shaggy, graying, irascible brow,” (Faulkner 1735).
A father, with this personality, would have ahard time relating and connecting with his child. It is almost as Abner does not care foranyone other than himself. Sarty blames Abner for the family’strials.
He wants to stay in one placelonger than a few weeks and because of Abner’s shady character the family is alwayshaving to move to a different town. Thechild thinks that they have finally moved for the last time and is convinced therewill be a happy ending. He is alwayswatching his father’s every move. WhenAbner decides to burn the barn belonging to Major de Spain, Sarty no longerstruggles with the decision of justice and blood any longer. From the moment that he realizes that hisfather is going to burn the barn, he fights and struggles to free himself so hecan warn the de Spain family.
He runs tothe house and yells barn, barn and never thinks of the consequence of hisfather being caught. When Sarty hears gunfire he realizesthat his father has been shot and is distraught. Although he feared his father and was upsetwith his actions Sarty loved him and mourned his death.
He sits alone, morns and thinks, “the griefand despair now no longer terror and fear just grief and despair. Father. My father, he thought” (Faulkner 1742),and with a false sense of pride declares his father brave. Sarty ultimately chooses moral over hisfather. He fights the battle betweengood and evil and even though it means his father’s death he chooses to do theright thing.
All the love that is present betweena Father and a Son is not enough to develop a positive relationship. There has to be respect and caring on both parts. The relationship between Abner Snopes and ColonelSartoris Snopes lacks both of these aspects. Without understanding and nurture, their relationship could never standa chance of being positive. Sarty notonly suffers physical abuse but he also endures emotional abuse.
A positive relationship cannot be attainedwith these levels of abuse. Abner andSarty developed a dysfunctional relationship that never recovered.