William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” essay

There are no perfect fathers, but a yet very young boy does not realize that yet. To children, their fathers are awesome figures to emulate. He is, after all, the first man in their life which they learn to obey, who gives them love and attention, fixes everything that’s broken, and who seems to know the answer to every question. However, there are instances, or sometimes all it takes is one event, when the child realizes the truth: that his father is far from the perfect superhero with godlike qualities.

Nevertheless, every child needs to have those chances to believe in his father so that in spite the realization which occurs later on, the child retains a sense of adulation, even if it is only as a form of sentiment towards one’s father than the actual truth. The father, however, has the responsibility of making sure that he deserves the respect and trust of his son in spite the mistakes he make—which his son would see and feel.

The son can forgive his father if his good traits overpower his weaknesses, or if the father can justify the necessity of doing something that is considered socially or morally unacceptable. The failure of Abner Snopes to make his son believe in the rightness of his reasons for doing the things that he do is the cause as to why he fails in assuming the role of a good father to young Santy Snopes in William Faulkner’s short story, “Barn Burning”.

Although the son knows that his father is the one who commits arson to properties of people who angers him, Santy Snopes tries to justify them as simply “his father’s habit and custom” (Faulkner). He also thinks that his father’s actions are brought about by the fact that “the element of fire spoke to some deep misgiving of his father’s being…as the one weapon for the preservation of (his) integrity” (Faulkner). His father could not help what he does. Destroying other people’s things is how he deals with his personal insecurities.

It is not totally his fault. Santy tries to make himself believe that his father has redeeming qualities, too. “He was brave!… He was in the war! He was in Colonel Sartoris’ cav’ry” (Faulkner), Santy defends his father to himself. These self-justifications are the chances that Santy give his own father to redeem his flawed character in his eyes. He would not be able to keep this up, however. The family’s new employer is well-off and lives in a beautiful house and Santy thinks that “They (the employers) are safe from him (his father).

People whose lives are a part of this peace and dignity are beyond his touch, he no more to them than a buzzing wasp” (Faulkner). But Abner Snopes does not care whom to mess with. When he feels insulted by the land owner, Snopes decides to burn his barn, too. This breaks this straw and at this point, Santy decides to finally go against his father. I have had my own experiences of being disappointed with my own father. Fortunately, I do not share the drama and tragedy of Santy Snope’s relationship and life with his father.

My father has a habit of promising things and then breaking them when the time comes to fulfill them, giving excuses like, he has a more pressing matter or emergency to attend to. Every promise is a chance for my father to make me believe in him. Every promise broken is a slight loss of faith of my faith in him. However, since at times he does fulfill his promise, the loss is recouped with every promise kept. I do not totally lose my belief in my father because of the good that balances the weakness in his personality.

Abner Snopes may be resentful of those whose lot in life is better than his, he may have personal issues that require psychiatric intervention to be resolved, but he could have kept a relationship with his son if only he had redeemed himself in other ways in the eyes of his son. His son gave him all the chances for him to believe in his father, but Abner Snopes should also have done his part in the father-son relationship: he should have also given young Santy good reasons to believe in him—and in this he failed.

Reference: Faulkner, William. Barn Burning.