Barn Burning by William Faulkner is the tale of a sick, demented man who was also a hero. This seeming contradiction is actually the story of the great lengths this man went to in order to prove his point. Although to the rest of the world he seemed like a lunatic, this had no impact on the way he acted. Abner Snopes, in his own demented way is a heroic figure. The very fact that he went around burning down peoples barns brings proof to this fact.
Although consistently causing damage to peoples property are more the actions of a madman, it is these abnormal activities that give Snopes his heroic claims. For, though he knew that he would be found out, he made no pretense of hiding his actions. He continued in his pyromania, believing that he was in the right. This can be seen from the way a messenger is sent to the first victim in the story, That evening a nigger came with the dollar and got the hog. He was a strange nigger. He said, He say to tell you wood and hay kin burn.
It is clear that Snopes did not care if anyone knew of his actions. He felt he was in the right, and because of that had free reign to do as he pleased. The fact that nobody else agreed with his perverted views concerned him not in the least, as he was well prepared to face the consequences. As Faulkner relates, He did not know where they were going. None of them ever did or ever asked, because it was always somewhere, always a house of sorts waiting for them a day or two days or even three days away.
Likely his father had already arranged to make a crop on another farm before he.. Snopes knew the score, he was well aware of the consequences his actions would bring. He therefore prepared in advance a new location and livelihood for him and his family. It is these heroic actions in the face of adversity, however, that make Snopes into the sick, demented persona that is portrayed. Abner Snopes believed he was a slave to the upper class. Consequently, he detested anyone of a higher stature.
This inferiority complex caused him to lash out at his landlords in protest of his social degradation. His self-delusion went to such a degree that he intentionally instigated disagreements so that he should have an excuse to strike back at what he perceived were his enemies. It is also the symbolic use of fire that gives a deeper insight into the inner workings of this mans twisted mind. On the one hand, the use of fire served a destructive purpose. It was the optimum solution to settling a dispute. When needed, it was ready to be unleashed in all its deadly glory.
On the other hand, when the full force of this special weapon was not needed, all Snopes used was a small fire, just enough to fulfill his purpose. It is almost as if he was conserving this special power. As Faulkner describes, The nights were still cool and they had a fire against it, of a rail lifted from a nearby fence and cut into lengths a small fire, neat, niggard almost, a shrewd fire; such fires were his fathers habit and custom always, even in freezing weather. From this, one can see the deep respect Snopes had for fire.
It is something that must be used sparingly so that when called upon, its full power would be there, waiting to be unleashed. In a way, Snopes is similar to Bartleby the Scrivener (Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville), in his unwavering decision to stick by what he felt was right. Bartleby felt he was at a disadvantage with the rest of society. He, therefore, preferred to do nothing. It is this same martyr-like view that Snopes had. In the end, it was all for naught. Snopes was dead, and society was left unchanged.