Barn Burning

The Rug Symbol Analysis

The Rug Symbol Icon

The rug at the entrance to the home of Major de Spain becomes the crux of one of the Snopes family’s numerous struggles with justice and authority. After Abner defiantly steps in horse droppings and then drags his shoe across the rug’s surface, he orders his daughters to clean the rug (which the Major has dropped off at the family shack), and he himself uses a rough, jagged stone, which ensures that the delicate object will not be left unscathed. Both within and beyond the family, then, the rug allows Abner to assert his own authority over others, while he can maintain a superior position with respect to them.

We later learn that this rug, adored by Mrs. de Spain cost a hundred dollars and came from France. Its exotic provenance and enormous cost—it’s worth more than the Snopes family will ever make in their lifetime, as the Major says—lend the rug symbolic importance in terms of the entrenched inequalities of Southern life following the Civil War. The Snopes and the de Spain families live near each other, and yet occupy entirely separate worlds. While Abner may never be able to afford the rug himself, what he can do is ruin it for good—the only way out of such vast social difference that he can imagine.

The Rug Quotes in Barn Burning

The Barn Burning quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Rug. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Barn Burning published in 1995.
Barn Burning Quotes

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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The Rug Symbol Timeline in Barn Burning

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Rug appears in Barn Burning. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Barn Burning
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
...way, and flings open the door. Sarty watches a dirty footprint appear on the pale rug inside the door, as if his father is stamping the footprint in. The servant shouts... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...look at her: he pauses, then just as deliberately pivots, smearing the stain into the rug without looking at it, and marches back out with the sound of a woman’s wail... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...followed by a black boy, his face angry, on a carriage horse carrying the rolled-up rug. They deposit the rug at the corner of the house where his father and brother... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
The father begins to shout for his daughters, one of whom drags the rug into the house, and tells the other to set up the wash pot (though she... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Sarty watches them all afternoon, lazily and reluctantly cleaning the rug with harsh homemade detergent while the father stands over them implacably. Then the mother comes... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
...last thing Sarty remembers before going to sleep is his harsh silhouette bending over the rug. It feels like he’s hardly slept when that same silhouette is standing over him, and... (full context)
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
When Sarty comes back with the mule his father is standing with the rolled rug over his shoulder, and he orders his son to help him onto the mule. Together... (full context)
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
...remains stooping with his back to the Major, that he must realize he ruined the rug, which cost a hundred dollars. Since that sum is far too large for Abner, the... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
...the twenty bushels, that somehow the whole thing will all balance out between the corn, rug, and fire, or between the terror and grief. (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
...high for the damage done. Abner says he washed out the tracks and took the rug back, but the Justice says he didn’t carry it back in the same condition—and Abner... (full context)