Writing Assignment on
William Faulkner's "Barn Burning"

Before attempting this writing assignment, be sure you have worked through the Study Guide for this story.

Option 1.  Analyze in detail the conflict within Sarty. Conclude your analysis by explaining why you believe Sarty resolves it the way he does.

Option 2.  Explain in detail how we are to understand Abner Snopes' motivation.  Why is he so antagonistic to his landlords?  What are we to understand as the principles he believes in for determining who deserves respect and who does not?   Suppose someone were to try to persuade him that he should be grateful to the likes of Mr. Harris or Major de Spain for giving him a living.  What do you imagine would be his reply?  Important lines of inquiry to explore include:  

  1. What principles lie behind Abner's general attitude towards fences (cf. 3, 26) and other expressions of the "modern" regime of property (cf. 15, 26, 39, 108)? 
  2. What are Abner's notions about "blood" and "blood ties"?  (Cf., e.g., 29, 84.)
  3. What is the relevance, if any, of what we learn about Abner's feelings towards the element of fire?  (Cf., e.g., 26.) 
  4. What are we to make of the various expressions of his determination, his hardness of will?  (Cf., e.g., 20, 25, 41, 42, 46, 91)?
  5. What, for Abner, are the fundamental conditions for the preservation of a man's personal dignity (self-respect, integrity)?  What form of general social organization would such a conception of person honor be most harmoniously adapted to?  How is that form of social organization inconsistent with the social order within which Abner finds himself, by historical accident, as it were?

Option 3. What are we to think of the legitimacy of the overall social order within which the story takes place?  What, for example, is your assessment of the quality of justice administered in the two court sessions (in different small towns) that we witness in the course of the story?  Are there other relevant factors to be taken into account?  Explain.

  Consult the Study Guide to this story before attempting this writing assignment.

  Suggestions are welcome.  Please send your comments to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Contents copyright 2000 by Lyman A. Baker

Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.

  This page last updated 09 November 2000.