Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Faulkner's Barn Burning. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
Barn Burning: Introduction
Barn Burning: Plot Summary
Barn Burning: Detailed Summary & Analysis
Barn Burning: Themes
Barn Burning: Quotes
Barn Burning: Characters
Barn Burning: Symbols
Barn Burning: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of William Faulkner
Historical Context of Barn Burning
Other Books Related to Barn Burning
- Full Title: “Barn Burning”
- When Written: 1938-1939
- Where Written: Oxford, Mississippi
- When Published: 1939 in Harper’s; 1950 in the Collected Stories
- Literary Period: Modernism, Southern Renaissance
- Genre: Short Story
- Setting: Yoknapatawpha, a fictional county in Mississippi that serves as the setting for almost all of Faulkner’s works.
- Climax: Sarty breaks free from his mother’s grasp and races up to the de Spain house to warn the Major that Abner, Sarty’s father, is about to burn down his barn—the first time Sarty blatantly challenges his father’s authority and chooses to follow his own values.
- Antagonist: Abner Snopes, Sarty’s father, is a complex antagonist—in many ways Sarty admires him and searches for his love and approval. But Sarty also, for most of the story, is too reluctant to admit that in another way he despises his father, whose resentment, defiance, and bitterness Sarty tries to avoid and replace with another set of values.
- Point of View: Faulkner is famous for his stream-of-consciousness technique, which moves in and out of characters’ minds in a way that can be both powerful and, at times, confusing. The third-person narration closely follows Sarty’s own perspective, and we do often gain access into Sarty’s thoughts at certain moments. But the narrator also informs us of certain things that Sarty does not know and could have no way of knowing. As a result, it is sometimes unclear whether the narration is taking Sarty’s perspective or is enacting a broader third-person narration.
Extra Credit for Barn Burning
Prized Goods. “Barn Burning” won the O. Henry award—a prize that is still given out today—the year it was published, for the best short story written in 1939.
Post it? After briefly serving as a Mississippi postmaster, a position he despised, Faulkner resigned in a letter that stated, “I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.”