Summary of Barn Burning by William Faulkner

The story opens in a Peace Court where Abner, the father of the young boy called Sarty Snopes is accused of burning the barn of Mr. Harris. Sarty is invited by the court to witness against his father but Mr. Harris and the judge realize that they are subjecting the young boy to a difficulty situation and decide to let him go. There is no proof that Abner is guilty of the offence but the judge orders Snopes’ family to completely move out of the county.

As Abner and Sarty get out of the court, a young boy insults Sarty calling him the ‘Burn Burner’. Sarty gets annoyed and decides to hit back but his father tells him not to do so. Outside the courthouse, there is a family wagon full of the family’s possessions. They camp there for the night.

The next day, Snopes’ family arrives to a new farm owned by Major de Spain to work as farm tenants. Abner decides to talk to Major de Spain and takes Sarty with him. On arriving, Sarty sees a fancy big mansion and thinks that everything is going to be well but his father seems not to have changed from acting against authority to preserve his honor. Intentionally, Abner walks to the horse yard and steppes on fresh horse’s poop, forcefully enters the big house, and smears the horse’s poop all over the rug that is in the front room. Abner is ordered to clean the rug by Major de Spain, which he does but using a harsh soap to destroy the rug completely. His boss gets annoyed and fines Abner by imposing a fine of twenty bushels of corn to cover the cost of the rug.

Abner moves to court to ask for the reduction of the fine. He succeeds but the judge only reduces the fine to 10 bushels of corn. Once again, he feels wronged and plans to burn the barn of the Major de Spain. Sarty is aware of his father’s move and alerts Major de Spain and runs away. Shortly, Major de Spain overtakes him riding on his horse and the boy jumps into a ditch to give way. Sarty hears gun shorts thrice and thinks that his father is dead. The boy is hurt by the thought that his father is dead and never goes back to his family but goes ahead to live alone.

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