Aber Snopes, A Flat But Complex Character

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English 1102 January 17, 2008 Abner Snopes, a Flat but Complex Character Abner Snopes in William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” is a flat, yet amazingly complex and intense character (160). To speak of him as flat is to borrow E. M. Forster’s term (Roberts and Jacobs 157) and also to note that, in this story, this character does not change or grow. Yet the force of the characterization, the potency and impact of it go beyond what one usually expects to find in a flat character. In fact, Faulkner could have gotten away with an even “flatter” Snopes since many critics see him as Faulkner’s version of the devil, a classic stereotype. He and his clan are “abominated by Faulkner,” according to one critic (Weisgerber 9). These are characters Faulkner loves to hate and wants us to hate. Yet Snopes is an arresting and memorable creation—unforgettable, even after the casual encounter of a first reading of “Barn Burning,” the short story he dominates. This phenomenon of characterization is produced by Faulkner through two types of description: first, Snopes’ actions and physical qualities and second, through the other characters’ perception of him. Even before we see Abner Snopes, we learn that he is in trouble with the law and that—though Sarty is fiercely loyal to him—the loyalty is causing his son “despair and grief.” Snopes is silent, giving Sarty no relief from the terrifying demands confronting him—that is, being called as a witness for the prosecution, something requiring the loyal boy to lie because what he is being asked to do is in conflict with his self-appointed role of defense witness in the presence of all the “enemies” of his father and therefore, also, of himself (Faulkner 161). Snopes is accused of burning the barn of a decent man names Harris. Snopes’ hog got into his corn, he tells the Justice of the Peace, and he caught it and sent it back. The

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