Barn BurningIn “Barn Burning,” Faulkner incorporates several instances of irony. He utilizes thisliterary tool in order to help the development of his characters and to express his ultimatemessage to the readers. Some examples of his use of irony are the unintentional yetinevitable ending of the Snopes family time after time, the similarities and differencesbetween Sarty Snopes and his father, and finally, the two distinct purposes for whichAbner Snopes uses fire. Separately, each is able to contribute to the development of thetwo main characters in the short story. Collectively, they are also able to help Faulknerconvey his personal message that essentially, an individual’s sense of values compriseswho he/she is.
The most obvious instance of irony is the uncanny fashion in which each endeavorof the Snopes family concludes every time. To the reader’s knowledge, it is neitherintended nor premeditated that each attempt of the family to make a new start results inthe same outcome. Each struggle is exactly that, yielding the invariable, undesired resultof a barn being engulfed in ravaging flames and the family being forced to search for anew beginning. These trials help Sarty understand that in order to take control of his owndestiny, he must separate himself from his family and venture out on his own. If he everwishes to live a life other than that of a vagabond with no real chance for happiness orstability, he must leave now. Another case of the use of irony is the comparison between Sarty Snopes and hisfather.
While they physically resemble each other, their morals could not differ more. Sarty is “small and wiry like his father (p267, paragraph 7). ” However the similaritiesare strictly limited to physical characteristics. The values and principles that the fatherand son embrace reveal the true contrast between the two. Abner allows his emotionsand pride to get the better of him, controlling his actions and making him react in anirrational manner. This tears young Sarty apart because although he wishes to obey andhonor his father, he cannot morally respect Abner and his deeds.
Faulkner uses thiscontrast in ideals to help Sarty realize that he is does not want to grow up like his fathernor is he obligated to follow in his footsteps. It helps him to see that he must escape if heever wants to change his way of life. The final example of irony is perhaps the most important and effective. AbnerSnopes uses fire for two very distinct purposes which is the epitome of irony. He usesthe fire in a very destructive manner each time he burns down a barn.
This immenseblaze serves no purpose but to keep intact his pride, “the element of fire spoke to somedeep mainspring of his father’s being,. . . as the one weapon for the preservation ofintegrity (p 270, paragraph 1). ” However, when it comes to keeping his family warm,Abner sets only “a small fire, niggard almost, a shrewd fire (p 270, paragraph 1).
” Tospare the warmth of a large fire for his family while setting grand ones for theunnecessary purpose of demolishing a barn seems ridiculous. Abner Snopes clearly hashis priorities out of order. He is too caught up in his own egotism to realize that hisfamily is suffering right before him. Although literally, Abner’s habit is to burn barns,perhaps what he is really burning is the very bridge his family needs to cross in order toachieve contentment, success, and stability. Faulkner’s message about the importance of individual values and ideals iswell-expressed through “Barn Burning. ” It is clear that Abner lacks both and is thereforeunable to provide for his family and induces his own untimely death.
Sarty representsthe hope that could have easily fallen into the footsteps of an overbearing father butinstead was wise enough to realize the fault in Abner’s ways and realign himself. English Essays