Barn Burning by William Faulkner

Summary: Barn Burning is a story given through the eyes of a boy about his father. The father is described as a man that is only out for himself and demands everyone to abide by his rules. When faced with a situation the father cannot control he resorts to burning the property of the individual giving him problems and then moves on to another town.


Mr. Harris - first man that had his barn burned

Colonel Sartoris Snopes (boy) - Youngest child of the man that burned the barn

Father - father to Colonel Sartoris Snopes

Major de Spain - man the family goes to work for after having to move from the first town

Section One:

  • The father and his children are in a court of some nature because Mr. Harris had his barn burned
  • Mr. Harris suspects the father because:
    • Mr. Harris had problems with the Father not keeping his pig under control, Mr. Harris tried to help by giving the Father some wire for a fence
    • The pig got out again, so Mr. Harris went to the house to talk to the Father; He noticed the wire still on the ground
    • Mr. Harris told the father he would charge him an impound fee next time the pig was found out of the yard
    • The pig was found, and impounded; The man that came to pay for the pig was told to pass a message to Mr. Harris
    • The message to Mr. Harris was - wood and hay can burn
  • Mr. Harris says the boy knows what happened, ask the judge to question him
  • The boy says to himself to tell the truth about the barn, but he is conflicted because it is his father's enemy
  • The judge decides the boy is too scared to question;
  • The judge cannot find evidence of the burning, so he tells the father to leave town
  • A random kid calls the father "barn burner"; The youngest boy hits him;

Section Two:

  • The father is described as being extremely hard, almost emotionless; however he just holds the emotion in
  • The father has "wolflike independence and even courage when the advantage was at least neutral"
  • The father has "ferocious conviction in the rightness of his own actions" - believes he is right to a fault
  • The father respects fire because it "spoke to some deep mainspring of his father's being"
  • The father hits the boy "without heat" because he said the boy was going to tell them (Mr. Harris and judge) what the father did
    • The father tells the boy he must stick to his own blood no matter what

Section Three:

  • The father brings the boy to the house of the new land owner (the father is going to farm the land)
  • The boy believes the house is impressive and as a result the owner must be impressive too; The boy thinks maybe his father will not have the same influence on the owner
  • The father steps in horse droppings and doesn't wipe his boot off; when the father knocks on the door it is answered by a servant that request him to take off his shoes;
  • The father ignores the servant stepping into the house, he steps on a white rug and smears the droppings into it when he is asked to leave

Section Four:

  • The owner of the house, Major de Spain, brings the rug to the father and tells him to clean it
  • The father has his girls clean it in harsh lye, and he scrapes the rug destroying it
  • The father brings the rug back ruined
  • Major De Spain shows up and tells the father he will deduct the cost of the rug from his crop

Section Five:

  • The father sues Major de Spain; the judge rules for major de Spain but lowers how many bushels of the crop he must pay
  • The father remains quiet, but when he is leaving says Major de Spain will never get the crop portion
  • The father tells the boy to get the oil from outside, the boy gets it but he doesn't want to
  • The boy tells the father last time he at least warned the man the father intended to hurt
  • The father tells the mother to hold the boy, otherwise he will run to the house and tell Major his plans
  • The mother cannot hold the boy, he runs to the house and tells the Major "barn, barn" then he runs off
  • The boy hears shots, he thinks his father was a war hero an instant later;
  • The boy decides to stay out all night, and when he wakes in the morning he goes off into the woods and never looks back

Other Notes:

  • The boy Sarty does not want anything bad to happen around him, he wants his father to accept some of the actions that are brought to him rather than fight back by violence
  • The father , whether right or wrong always believes in his own actions
  • The father is probably a share cropper; historically share croppers have never been treated well making just enough to live. "legal slavery"

© 2009 copyright Barn Burning | William Faulkner