Barn Burning


William Faulkner

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Blood Symbol Analysis

Blood Symbol Icon

While “blood” can be a metaphorical way of referring to genetic relationships—an important theme in “Barn Burning”—blood is also referred to symbolically on a more basic, visceral level throughout the story. Sarty’s mother attempts to wipe off his bloody face after he fights with other children who call his father a barn burner, thus attempting to express her own affection for him, even as he brushes her off. Abner Snopes, in turn, is referred to as “bloodless,” an adjective that only underlines his generally strict, stiff, and rigid attitude.

Much of the thematic significance of blood in the story has to do with its inevitability: the adjective “old” is often affixed to the word “blood,” as in “the old fierce pull of blood.” Surviving through various generations, blood represents (as in terms of “bloodline”) the way in which the past works inexorably on the present, even in ways that are not immediately evident. In addition, though, the fact that Sarty cannot escape from his family heritage, the physical presence or absence of blood is more related to how the family responds to such bonds—with affection, for instance, or not.

Blood Quotes in Barn Burning

The Barn Burning quotes below all refer to the symbol of Blood. 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
Barn Burning Quotes

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:

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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Barn Burning PDF

Blood Symbol Timeline in Barn Burning

The timeline below shows where the symbol Blood 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
...of his feelings, from fear, despair, and grief to a sense of loyalty to his blood. (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...struck the mules. He tells Sarty that he must learn to stick with his own blood in order to survive. Twenty years later, Sarty would understand that if he said the... (full context)
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...ask why, but his father orders him to go. Out of the “old habit of blood” Sarty rushes to the stable. He imagines continuing to run, never looking back to see... (full context)