Barn Burning

Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes Character Analysis

The youngest son of the Snopes family, ten-year-old Sarty is named after a Confederate officer named Colonel Sartoris who comes up in a number of William Faulkner’s other works. The story often calls Sarty simply “the boy.” Sarty is in the process of developing his own character and values over the course of the story. He feels a fierce, instinctive loyalty to the rest of his family, but that loyalty coexists both with a feeling that his connection to his family is inevitable, and with a hunger after other, alternative kinds of connections. Sarty has an implicit idea of justice that conflicts with his father’s, for instance, and he also—unlike other members of his family—manages to retain a sense of hope for the future, as epitomized by his reaction to the elegant, welcoming-looking home of Major de Spain family.

Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes Quotes in Barn Burning

The Barn Burning quotes below are all either spoken by Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes or refer to Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Barn Burning published in 1995.
Barn Burning Quotes

He could not see the table where the Justice sat and before which his father and his father’s enemy (our enemy he thought in that despair, ourn! mine and him both! He’s my father!) stood.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes (speaker), Abner Snopes, Mr. Harris, The Justice (I)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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And older still, he might have divined the true reason: that the element of fire spoke to some deep mainspring of his father’s being, as the element of steel or of powder spoke to other men, as the one weapon for the preservation of integrity, else breath were not worth the breathing, and hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes (speaker), Abner Snopes
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 7-8
Explanation and Analysis:

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He could see his father against the stars but without face or depth—a shape black, flat, and bloodless as though cut from tin in the iron folds of the frockcoat which had not been made for him, the voice harsh like tin and without heat like tin: “You were fixing to tell them. You would have told him.”

Related Characters: Abner Snopes (speaker), Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

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“You’re getting to be a man. You got to learn. You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you.”

Related Characters: Abner Snopes (speaker), Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

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It was as if the blow and the following calm, outrageous voice still rang, repercussed, divulging nothing to him save the terrible handicap of being young, the light weight of his few years, just heavy enough to prevent his soaring free of the world as it seemed to be ordered by not heavy enough to keep him footed solid in it, to resist it and try to change the course of its events.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes, Abner Snopes
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hit’s big as a court house he thought quietly, with a surge of a peace and joy whose reason he could not have thought into words, being too young for that: They are safe from him.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes (speaker), Abner Snopes
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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And now the boy saw the prints of the stiff foot on the doorjamb and saw them appear on the pale rug behind the machinelike deliberation of the foot which seemed to bear (or transmit) twice the weight which the body compassed.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes, Abner Snopes
Related Symbols: The Rug
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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Maybe he even won’t collect the twenty bushels. Maybe it will all add up and balance and vanish—corn, rug, fire; the terror and grief, the being pulled two ways like between two teams of horses—gone, done with for ever and ever.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

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He saw the man in spectacles sitting at the plank table and he did not need to be told this was a Justice of the Peace; he sent one glare of fierce, exultant partisan defiance at the man in collar and cravat now, whom he had seen but twice before in his life, who wore on his face an expression not of rage but of amazed unbelief which the boy could not have known was at the incredible circumstance of being sued by one of his own tenants.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes, Abner Snopes, Major de Spain, The Justice (II)
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:

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Then he was moving, running, outside the house, toward the stable: this the old habit, the old blood which he had not been permitted to choose for himself, which had been bequeathed to him willy nilly and which had run for so long (and who knew where, battening on what of outrage and savagery and lust) before it came to him. I could keep on, he thought. I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again. Only I can’t. I can’t.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes (speaker)
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Ain’t you going to even send a nigger?” he cried. At least you sent a nigger before!”

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes (speaker), Abner Snopes
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

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But there was no glare behind him now and he sat now, his back toward what he had called home for four days anyhow, his face toward the dark woods which he would enter when breath was strong again, small, shaking steadily in the chill darkness, hugging himself into the remainder of his thin, rotten shirt, the grief and despair now no longer terror and fear but just grief and despair. Father. My father, he thought.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes (speaker), Abner Snopes
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes Character Timeline in Barn Burning

The timeline below shows where the character Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes appears in Barn Burning. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Barn Burning
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...is also being used for a court of the Justice of the Peace, where a boySarty Snopes, though we’re not yet told his name—is crouched at the back, smelling the cheese... (full context)
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty can’t see his father (Abner Snopes) nor his father’s “enemy” at the front; then he... (full context)
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...man who threatened him, the Justice says this doesn’t count as proof. Harris says the boy should come up and vouch for Abner—not the protagonist’s brother, who’s older, but the boy,... (full context)
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty looks at the serious faces and at the shabby, older Justice beckoning him up. His... (full context)
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...Justice asks for his name, and he whispers “Colonel Sartoris Snopes.” The Justice says a boy with that name must tell the truth, while the boy continues to think “enemy” when... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty follows his father in his stiff black coat out of the room. His father walks... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty whirls around and sees the face of another boy in what looks like a red... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Sarty’s two “hulking” sisters, his mother, and his aunt are waiting for them with their old,... (full context)
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty wonders to himself whether his father is satisfied, now—maybe it’s over. His mother asks Sarty... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
His father, Sarty knows, always can stop himself—he has a “wolflike” independence and courage that impresses strangers, in... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...camps that night and makes a small, neat fire, something the father excels at. If Sarty was older, he might have wondered why the fire was so small, given his father’s... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
And if Sarty was even older, the story suggests, he might have realized that fire spoke to something... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
When they are alone, Abner says that his son was going to tell them during the trial—would have told on him. He strikes Sarty... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
...arrive at a two-room house identical to all the dozen others they’ve lived in since Sarty was born, ten years ago. The mother and aunt begin to unload the wagon, while... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Abner tells Sarty to accompany him to see their new employer, who the father says will own him... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
The two come to a huge house: when Sarty sees it he forgets his father, his terror and despair. He’s never seen anything like... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
...comes down into a pile of fresh horse droppings, which he could have easily avoided. Sarty wonders if his father’s rage will be tempered by falling under the spell of the... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
...servant, calling him “nigger,” to get out of his way, and flings open the door. Sarty watches a dirty footprint appear on the pale rug inside the door, as if his... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Abner stops to clean his boot, and looking back at the house, tells his son disparagingly that “nigger sweat” built it, and now the Major presumably wants to mix “white... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Two hours later, Sarty is chopping wood while the women of his family are inside preparing food (though not... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
...the house, and tells the other to set up the wash pot (though she tells Sarty to do so). With the mother looking on anxiously, he orders the daughters to clean... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Sarty watches them all afternoon, lazily and reluctantly cleaning the rug with harsh homemade detergent while... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
...then go to bed. Abner, though, is not yet in bed, and the last thing Sarty remembers before going to sleep is his harsh silhouette bending over the rug. It feels... (full context)
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
When Sarty comes back with the mule his father is standing with the rolled rug over his... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Early that morning, father and son are equipping the mules for plowing when the Major rides up. He tells Abner, who... (full context)
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty calls to his father and cries that he did the best he could. Mr. de... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
For the rest of that week Sarty works steadily and dutifully, which he’s learned from his mother. With the older women he... (full context)
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
On Saturday, Sarty’s father orders him to gear up the wagon, and the father and two sons go... (full context)
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty goes up to the Justice and cries that his father didn’t burn—but his father interrupts... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Rather than go to the wagon, Sarty remains in the back of the room, where he can hear the Justice ask if... (full context)
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
After the trial, while Sarty imagines they’ll return home, his father instead marches past the wagon to the blacksmith shop.... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
...some of the problems with the wagon, which has become run-down, and then Abner orders Sarty to hitch up the mules. Sarty listens to his father tell the blacksmith and another... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
After sundown they reach home and eat supper. Suddenly, as Sarty is sitting on the doorstep, he hears his mother cry her husband’s name and repeat,... (full context)
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Abner orders Sarty to get the can of oil from the stable. Sarty begins to ask why, but... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty runs back and hands the can to his father, crying that at least his father... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty begins to struggle, while his mother catches him in both arms. Sarty cries that he... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...to grab him, but his sister—a twin, we now learn—is too large, slow, and impassive. Sarty races out of the house and up to the gate, running up to the big... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Behind Sarty, the Major shouts for his horse. Sarty thinks he should cut across the park, but... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Then Sarty springs up and continues racing, though he knows it’s too late. Even after he hears... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
By midnight Sarty reaches the top of a hill, not knowing how far he’s come, his back still... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
While Sarty will soon be hungry, for now he is only cold, so he decides to keep... (full context)