Barn Burning


William Faulkner

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Themes and Colors
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Barn Burning, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Resentment, Race, and Prejudice

The Snopes family is made up of poor white sharecroppers, an economic class from the post-Civil War American South through which poor farmers earned their living by working off land of owned by another, a landowner who provided certain materials and sometimes housing in exchange for the labor and a percentage of the resulting crop. While former slaves often became sharecroppers in the upheaval after the Civil War and Reconstruction, struggling white people increasingly turned…

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Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance

The world of “Barn Burning” as Abner Snopes sees it—and as his son Sarty originally does as well—portrays social and economic inequalities as a given. One’s professional and class-based identity, as a judge, sharecropper, servant, or landowner, is understood as inescapable, and Abner seems to feel these inequalities more acutely than most. Other members of the family deal with their economic reality differently. Sarty’s sisters, for example, who are described somewhat condescendingly as “bovine”…

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Independence and Justice

The Snopes family is entirely dependent on their landowners for their livelihood, but Abner Snopes constantly tries to assert his own independence anyway—even when that involves bending the wills of the other members of his family, too, to his own desires. Abner deeply resents having to work for other men to support his family, and many of his defiant actions, his lack of concern towards the rules and regulations of others, can be understood as…

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Loyalty, Family, Blood

What “Barn Burning” calls the “old fierce pull of blood” is a profound motivating force for Sarty—a force that, he both expects and fears, may turn out to determine his own life as well. In the story, blood is referred to in almost a genetic sense: young Sarty has inherited his father’s blood, and various similarities can be traced between the other family members as well. By discussing both past and future generations…

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