The nature of the relationship between father and son in William Faulkner’s Barn Burning is displayed in the first paragraph of the story. In general a father-son relationship would be built on genuine respect, love, loyalty, and admiration. These building blocks were absent in Abner and Sarty Snopes relationship. Sarty’s loyalty to his father appeared to come from a long time fear of the consequences of not obeying his father’s commands. The “nigger” that could place the blame on Abner was not to be found. 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, surely to protect himself from persecution he could destroy a man’s life. 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 knew he was also the son of the “barn burner. ” A name he heard hissing as they passed by boys in town. Sarty 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. ” Sarty could usually convince himself why his father was this way. The fact that he had to be a horse trader for four years hiding from the blue and the gray armies to exist by stealing or “capturing” as he called it, horses. Was Sarty to become a man like his father? It seems to be the fear that Sarty may have worried about many times. Young boys usually acquire the desire at sometime in their life to simulate their fathers’actions, perspectives on life and mannerisms.
Fathers are examples to how they would like their sons to be. Abner probably thought it was the only way to be. Abner’s past was not Sarty’s, his future was not to be Sarty’s either. For their views on life and the people in it were quite different. Abner Snopes looked at the mansion of Major de Spain as a symbol of inequality. A fact that he had too much and Abner had so little . Sarty looked at the vast mansion as a picturesque scene of “the grove of oaks and cedars and flowering trees and shrubs” almost as if it was a rerun of something he had was coming to him.
Making sure not to give more than he had. Sarty reached for the positive in life the beauty of a day and the chance to be a better man than his father. He wanted to be a man of truth as seen when he told his father, he would have told the Justice of the Peace that his father had burned Mr. Harris’ barn. This would have been a complete denial of any inherited traits from his father. Abner Snopes would not tell the truth if it meant he would suffer or be punished. He thought that he had paid the price of the war and now was his time to seek what was his.
To him any man that would cross him and take him to court would be forever sorry. Abner took to the same treatment time and again and burned the barn of Major de Spain. This violent act of rage against this man and the area that Sarty loved would bring him to a deciding point in his young life. He had to decide to go on protecting his father, or to make a break to live as he thought, suffering from which would certainly be isolation and regrets for a while. He made the break he had come to the point in life where he was becoming his own man.