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William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”: The Destructiveness of the Human Ego Essays

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William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” symbolizes the destructiveness of the human ego through the character, Abner Snopes. Throughout the story, Snopes functions and communicates based on his own logic. He has no regard for his family, superiors, or the judicial system. His unrelenting effort to live according to what he deems as “right” creates an atmosphere of fear and oppression.
Following the barn trial, Snopes’ demeanor towards his son, Colonel Sartoris, clearly demonstrates his use of fear and intimidation to gain respect and conformity within his family. Although, the young boy experiences physical and emotional trauma as a result of the trial, Abner fails to and will not allow his wife to express any form of empathy. However, he chastises his son by striking him and giving him a lecture about manhood. “You’re getting to be a man. You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you. Do you think either of them, any man there this morning, would? Don’t you know all they wanted was a chance to get at me because they knew I had them beat?” (Faulkner 501). Zender argues,
He is a dark imposing obstacle to his son’s development into his
own man. (28)

Kelly 2
Abner’s attempt to provide fatherly guidance is actually an opportunistic moment to justify his strong beliefs. This domineering attitude not only affects Satoris but the entire family. Pinion suggests:
He gathers his family close about him, for they are the only
truth he knows, and attempts to make them see the world as
he does. (3)
He continues to validate his behavior as the story progresses. His effort to filter Sarty with his way of thinking continues. For example, when Sno...


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...on. The question now arises as to whether Snopes’ egotism will ultimately destroy the man Sarty is fighting to become.
Throughout the story, Abner Snopes never defers from his self fulfilling perspective on life. He totally disregards the needs of his family and any one else that enters his path. He continues to engage in behaviors that are self-centered and demeaning. Snopes allows his personal plight in life to destroy his goal to lead his family based on his beliefs. This human flaw eventually generates a chain of chaotic events that he himself cannot ultimately control. Snopes chooses to follow one particular path throughout his life even though he has witnessed the effects himself. A road to destruction is one that Snopes obviously embraces regardless of the repercussions that any one including his family may encounter as a result of his actions.




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