Where did you get such a dirty face,
My darling dirty-faced child?
I got it from crawling along in the dirt
And biting two buttons off Jeremy‟s shirt.
I got it from chewing the roots of a rose
And digging for clams in the yard with my
I got it from peeking into a dark cave
And painting myself like a Navajo brave.
I got it from playing with coal in the bin
And signing my name in cement with my
I got if from rolling around on the rug
And giving the horrible dog a big hug.
I got it from finding a lost silver mine
And eating sweet blackberries right off the
I got it from ice cream and wrestling and
And from having more fun than you‟ve had
The most noticeable feature of Faulkner's style is his
sentence structure. His sentences tend to be long, full of
interruptions, but work by stringing out seemingly
meandering sequences of clauses.
The second sentence of „„Barn Burning‟‟ offers an
example: It is 116 words long and contains between
twelve and sixteen clauses, depending on how one
parses it out; its content is fluid and sundry, moving from
Sarty's awareness of the smell of cheese in the general
store through the visual impression made by canned
goods on the shelves to the boy's sense of blood loyalty
with his accused father.
It is the subjectivity of the content—sense impressions,
random emotions and convictions—which reveals the purpose
of the syntax, which is to convey experience in the form of an
intense stream-of-consciousness as recorded by the
The boy, crouched on his nail keg at the back of the crowded
room, knew he smelled cheese, and more: from where he sat he
could see the ranked shelves close-packed with the solid, squat,
dynamic shapes of tin cans whose labels his stomach read, not
from the lettering which meant nothing to his mind but from the
scarlet devils and the silver curve of fish - this, the cheese which
he knew he smelled and the hermetic meat which his intestines
believed he smelled coming in intermittent gusts momentary and
brief between the other constant one, the smell and sense just a
little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull
Style: Point of View
Faulkner was a perspectivist: He tells stories from a particular point of
view—or sometimes, as in the novels, from many divergent points of view,
each with its own insistent emphasis.
„„Barn Burning‟‟ offers a controlled example of perspectivism. Faulkner tells
his story primarily from the point of view of young Sarty, a ten-year-old boy.
This requires that Faulkner gives us the raw reportage of scene and event
that an illiterate ten-year-old would give us, if he could. Thus, Sarty sees the
pictures on the labels of the goods in the general store but cannot
understand the lettering; adults loom over him, so that he feels dwarfed by
them; and he struggles with moral and intellectual categories, as when he
can only see Mr. Harris as an "enemy."
There are few departures from this strict perspectivism, but they are telling,
as when, in the penultimate paragraph of the tale, an omniscient narrator
divulges the truth about Ab‟s behavior as a soldier during the Civil War. But
even this is a calculated feature of Faulkner's style: the breaking-in of the
omniscient narrator is another way of fracturing the continuity of the
narrative, of reminding readers that there are many perspectives, including
a transcendental one in which all facts are known to the author. Sharing
Sarty's immediate impressions and judgments forges a strong bond
between the boy and the reader.
The setting of „„Barn Burning‟‟ is in the post-Civil War South, in which a defeated
and in many ways humiliated society is trying to hold its own against the
Northern victor. This South has retreated into plantation life and small-town
existence, and it maintains in private the social hierarchy that characterized the
region in its pre-war phase.
Slavery has been abolished, but a vast distance still separates the land-owning
Southern aristocracy from the tenant-farmers and bonded workers who do the
trench-labor required by the plantation economy.
The Snopeses are itinerant sharecroppers, who move from one locale to
another, paying for their habitation in this or that shack by remitting part of the
crop to the landlord. This is a setting of intense vulnerability and therefore of
“Setting" is a word which needs to be qualified in reference to „„Barn Burning‟‟
because, as Sarty notes, he has lived in at least a dozen ramshackle buildings
on at least a dozen plantations in his ten short years. In a way, then, the story's
"setting" is the road, or rather the Snopes' constant removal from one place to
another due to Ab's quarreling and violence. The wagon, heaped with miserable
chattel, is the setting, as is Abner's egomaniacal personality and Sarty's
miserable yet rebellious heart.
Few authors of the twentieth century are more significant than
Langston Hughes. He is assured his status by his many
contributions to literature.
• The length of his career: 1921-1967
• The variety of his output: articles, poems, short stories,
dramas, novels, and history texts.
• His influence on three generations of African American
writers: from the Harlem Renaissance through the Civil
• His concern for the “ordinary” African American: The
subject of his work
• His introduction of the jazz idiom: the quality of black
colloquial speech and the rhythms of jazz and the blues.
During his long career Hughes was harshly criticized
by blacks and whites. Because he left no single
masterwork, such as Ralph Ellison‟s Invisible Man
(1952) or Richard Wright‟s Native Son (1940), and
because he consciously wrote in the common idiom
of the people, academic interest in him grew only
slowly. The importance of his influence on several
generations of African American authors is, however,
indisputable and widely acknowledged.