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Generally speaking, the relationship between a son and his father is built on genuine respect, love, loyalty, and admiration. Apparently, this affection was absent between Abner and Sarty Snopes. Sarty was forced to obey his father's commands though he did not want to. His loyalty to his father arises just from his instinctive persistence to blood. He fears his father rather than admire the cruel man. I have found that, in the story, the "nigger" that placed the blame on Abner was not to be found any more. Was Faulkner inferring by this statement that the individual had been killed? If Abner had so little moral value to destroy a man's property, he was also likely to claim a man's life in order to protect himself from persecution.
Sarty "knew he smelled cheese, and more". He smelled the "fierce pull of blood"--his father's blood, the blood of the family name, Snopes. Sarty did know he was also the son of the "barn burner"--a name he heard as they passed by boys in town. He fought to defend his father and when hurt, he seemed to need the blood to remain for a while as a reminder of why he stayed with the man. Sarty viewed his father at times as "bloodless" and cut from "tin". He could usually convince himself of the reason why his father behaved in this way, since he well know his father's bitter and harsh experience of being a horse trader for four years hiding from the blue and the gray armies to survive by stealing or "capturing", as he called it, horses.
"Barn Burning" explores the coming of age of Sarty Snopes, as he was forced to deal with issues of right and wrong that require a mature insight and perspective beyond his years. "You're getting to be a man", Snopes told his ten-year-old son after delivering a blow to the side of his head. In Sarty's world, violence is a representative of manhood, which he got to knew all too well from living with his father. Sarty is impressionable, inarticulate, and apt to be influenced potentially by his father, but he is also infused with a sense of integrity. Sarty is in many ways a raw, unformed kid of nature, uninvolved with education, the sublime edification of civilization, or the stability of a permanent home.
In Sarty's eyes, Abner Snopes is an influential, towering existence, but he himself is simply a primitive, thoughtless force of violence and destruction. With his family members, he seemed to be a stiff, shallow, bigoted and brutal man without any complexity. All these bad characteristics make him not look like a human being, and Faulkner often characterizes him in metallic terms, describing him as iron-like, cut from tin, a mechanical presence whose lack of emotion underlines his compromised sense of morality. Anber's physical presence fully reflects his inner corruption and crankiness of revenge that he embodies. His leg, which was shot in the war when he was stealing Confederate's horses for personal profit and dragged lamely behind him, is an external manifestation of his warped inner space. Due to his incapability of expressing himself wisely, the only ways for Abner Snopes to express himself are violence and cruelty. These tactics have overwhelmed his worldview so completely that they have infused his sense of who he is.
Not satisfied with limiting his great unhappiness to his personal world, Abner seemed to destroy everything he touched, and he became almost savage in his lack of respect for others. In Major de Spain's house, he deliberately stepped in horse manure and tracked it throughout the house. Later, Faulkner compares Abner to a stinging wasp or housefly, and Abner lifted his hand "like a curled claw". These images suggest that Abner is actually no longer a common human being but instead simply resembles primitive creatures. Fed on jealousy and rage, his need for revenge is borne of his sense of inferiority, lack of power, and gradual decline by the dismal sharecropping system. He offset these shortcomings by being a silent tyrant, ruling his family with threats and abuse of violence, as well as by destroying the peaceful life of those individuals who he believed had looked down upon him.
Would Sarty be a man like his father? It was the fear that Sarty was obsessed with. When boys are young, they usually simulate their fathers' behaviors, opinions on life and mannerism. Fathers set an example to how they would like their spadgers to be. Abner possibly thought that it was the only way for him to be.
Nevertheless, Abner's past is not Sarty's, his future will not to be Sarty's either for their views on life and attitudes towards people around them are quite different. Abner Snopes thought of the mansion of Major de Spain as a symbol of inequality. The facts that he had so little while the major had too much and the luxury was obtained by squeezing the poor annoyed him. Sarty regarded the vast mansion as a picturesque scene of "the grove of oaks and cedars and flowering trees and shrubs". It represents the peace and joy which he had been deeply longing for. Seeing the positive and the beauty in life, he wanted to be a man of truth as whom we can see when he told his father he would have exposed the fact to the Justice of the Peace that his father had burned Mr. Harris' barn. This is a thorough denial of any inherited traits from his father. Abner Snopes would never tell the truth if it meant he would suffer or be punished. He thought that he had paid a high price for the war and now it was time for him to pursue what belonged to him--particularly the equal treatment and respect from others. In his mind, anyone who offended him and took him to court should forever feel sorry and guilty. Unfortunately, fact was far from that. So he wreaked his wrath on other ones--did the same evil thing time and again and even burnt the barn of de Spain. His violent actions of rage against the major and the house that Sarty loved brought Sarty to a deciding point in his young life.
The sight of the de Spain house's gave Sarty an instinctive feeling of peace and joy, but, as Faulkner notes, the child could not convey such feeling into words. In the article, Sarty's decision upon whether he should be loyal to his family or the integrity is imperative. For the Snopes family, especially for Sarty's father, family loyalty should be valued above all. It seems that the whole family live outside society and outside laws. They have to strictly submit to their "unique" moral code which is totally based on family loyalty rather than public notions of right or wrong, under the pressure of Abner. Abner even told Sarty that he should remain loyal to his "blood," or family, or he would find himself alone. This threat suggests how isolated the family was and how fully they relied on one another for protection, even when their faith in this protection came to a collapse. I think this a terrible product of Abner Snope's dictatorship.
Blood, in a literal sense, appears to, as well, emphasizes the intensity of the bond linking family members. For example, in the beginning of the story, when the Snopeses were leaving the makeshift court, a local boy charged Sarty with being a barn burner, and, when Sarty whirled around to confront him, the boy hit Sarty and hurt his face. The blood, dried and congealed on Sarty's face during the ride out of town, is, in a way, a mark of pride: He had defended the family's reputation.
However, after Abner planned to burn a barn once again, Sarty realized that the loyalty to family loyalty came at a too great cost and had became a too heavy burden for him. He had to decide whether to go on protecting his father or to make a break to live as he thought, at the same time suffering from the predictable future where he would face severe punishment, isolation from family members and regrets for a while. Later, Sarty rejected family loyalty and instead reacted instinctively again when he prevented his father from burning Major de Spain's barn. He could not explain clearly and completely why he warned de Spain that the barn was about to be burned and why he immediately ran away, but his actions suggested that his soul consists of goodness and morality rather than the corruption that his father attempted to teach him.
Although Sarty's worldview and morality may exist beyond the adult world of precise language and articulation, he has an insight which is far more developed than many of the adults who surround him. He saw through his father's attempts to manipulate him by yakking on endlessly about the importance of family loyalty as a means of guaranteeing his safety and Sarty's silence. John, Sarty's brother, lacks the subtle insight as Sarty, and he is an example of what young Sarty could easily become. Snopes managed to teach John his ideas of family loyalty, and the poor boy blindly followed Snopes's criminal lead. Sarty, far from silently obeying, stirs the climactic end of Snopes's dictatorship and atrocity. At the end of the story, Sarty betrayed the family "honor" and had to persevere on his own. As his father had warned, in return, support from family would not be offered to him, if Sarty failed to support his family. As frightening as the desperate future might be, Sarty found that the kind of "support" his family could offer was something he could go without. The ultimate sublimation of his thought marks an end to the legacy of bitterness and shame that he stood to inherit.
He made the break and came to the turning point in life where he was becoming his own man. And only when Abner was killed-presumably shot to death by Major de Spain at the end of the story-would the family be free both physically and mentally. They are loyal, but they are also lost.