Introduction his son’s development into a responsible


Psychological analysis of a short story offers an interesting view into the minds of the characters in the story. This paper seeks to carry out a psychological analysis of the short story “Barn burning” by William Faulkner.

The analysis will mainly revolve around Abner Snopes (main character) who is depicted as having some queer tendencies throughout the story (Faulkner, pp.2). It will include: all the different situations that Abner and his family finds themselves; the emotional problems that stokes different characters, mostly due to Abner’s conduct; the implications of Abner’s behavior and the effects they cause, mostly to his son Sarty. The analysis will also go further to try and identify the origin of Abner’s anger.

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In the short story “Barn burning” which was written by William Faulkner, the characters are faced with deep emotional issues (Faulkner, pp.

6). The main character, Abner Snopes, presents huge obstacle to his son’s development into a responsible adult. In the early part of the story Abner is described as freebooter and a crook. He later progresses into an evil and vengeful person as life stresses take toll on him. This change presents a character development nightmare to his son, Sarty.

In fact, Snopes’ character does not go beyond the role of presenting an evil obstacle to his son’s development. His character which can be effectively described as pyromania shows his hatred for the society in which he lives. Mr. Snopes has a possessive attitude that can be regarded as the hallmark of his weakness. This attitude is manifested in the way he treats his son.

For instance, he doesn’t like it when his son speaks and he counters this by looking at him with a weird stare that drives fear into him. The story is fully packed with emotional instances that are mainly perpetuated by Mr. Snopes, who is illustrated as having the poorest of characters in the story. After being subjected to a shameful life by His father, Sarty finally makes an important decision to end their relationship and takes off to live on his own.

This gesture can be seen as a moral protestation, whereby Sarty affirms his moral correctness by breaking away from an evil sick minded father rather than staying around and consequently being affected. In regard to other characters’ views, Abner might be portrayed as follows: first of all, Sarty, a youngster, sees the devil’s reflection in his own father who is described as having a claw-like hand in one passage and in another he is referred to as not seeming to cast a shadow, yet in another, his feet appear s to break into a pile of manure in the same way a cloven woof would do (Faulkner, pp.5). Sarty, as an older adult behaves like an evil youngster.

His sickening, antisocial behavior leads him into a collision with everyone in his path. Abner’ Barn burning behavior is a testament of his satanic tendencies as fire is more linked to the devil (Faulkner, pp.8). This makes Sarty’s decision to break away and not to obey his father to be necessary as far as morality is concerned.

The father is thus viewed as the one on the wrong side of morality by behaving badly. Naturally, sons are required to obey their father as show of good moral conduct. However, this case is special due to the fact that Abner, who should give directions to his son, has poor vengeful character.

Throughout the story, Abner is repeatedly being referred to as stiff. This stiffness goes further than just describing his gait and stance but also his character as well. The name stiff, reflects Abner’s dedication to his own sense of being and integrity, his firm will to do anything he so desires (Faulkner, pp.13). It seems to suggest that Abner is some living evil force that is proud to be what it is. Though Mr.

Snopes is seen to have terrifying, animalistic and vengeful tendencies he is also shown to have some admirable traits such as being courageous and enduring. Finally, the root of the rebellelious barn burning personality portrayed by Mr. Snopes can be traced to the economic hardships that bedevil his family. He may as well represent the struggle for equality where the poor say no to oppression by the mighty. The mighty in this case is represented by De Spain who doesn’t seem to accept any challenge. Abner therefore, when infuriated by those he considers to be mighty he uses fire to get them down to his level.

The superiority exercised over him seems to have caused a psychological effect that causes him to act the way he does.


This paper sought to carry out a psychological analysis of “barn burning”. The story, “barn burning” by William Faulkner presents a typical view of how the American society existed in the 19th century (Faulkner, pp.

4). This is especially in regard to the social inequalities that existed and the psychological effects that they caused on either side of the divide.

Work Cited

Faulkner, William.

Barn Burning: Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner, New York: The Modern Library. 1939. Print.


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