Symbolism in Barn Burning

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Date Submitted: 04/15/2013 02:44 AM

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Barn Burning

Symbols are objects, actions, or ideas that represent something else or something more than themselves. Symbols are constantly used throughout literature to help give more meaning and depth to a work. In “Barn Burning,” the author, William Faulkner, relies on the use of symbols to add to the story. The most obvious and meaningful symbol in Faulkner’s work is the use of fire that appears several times throughout the story.

The different fires found throughout “Barn Burning” symbolize two different things. One of the symbols of fire is just how powerless Snopes is. When Snopes attempts to build a fire for his family, it is barely adequate enough to keep his family warm through the night. Creating a fire to keep his family warm should be a simple task for Snopes, but he is unable to do it. Snopes struggles to provide for his family, he is powerless. Snopes again demonstrates just how weak he is when he resorts to barn burning, a terrible and low crime. Not only does this show how powerless Snopes is, but it shows how deeply he desires and fights for power. The other symbol of fire is Snopes’ constant struggle for power. Snopes uses and turns to fire as a way to get even with the world for the injustices he feels are being done to him. The barn he was able to burn down and the barn he attempted to burn down are perfect examples of this. Snopes burned the first barn down because he was angered when his neighbor charged him to return the hog that had been breaking out and getting into his neighbor’s cornfields. Snopes felt that he was treated unfairly and he reacted with fire. Snopes had to resort to something as low as barn burning because, in his eyes, it was the only way he could even the odds and gain power over the people he was fighting with. Snopes’ last attempt at barn burning ended in his own demise, highlighting again his powerlessness and attempt to gain power. William Faulkner uses fire as a symbol serves to give more meaning and depth to...