Critical Response Paper

CriticalResponse Paper

“‘BarnBurning’ Faulkner’s Uniquely Anachronistic Aesthetic” is anarticle by David Kern that analyzes William Faulkner’s literarystyle through analyzing his BarnBurning.Fundamentally, Kern claims that Faulkner uses an anachronisticaesthetic in his works, and this is most pronounced in “BarnBurning”than in other works of Faulkner, such as “A Rose for Emily”(Kern). Although it takes quite to appreciate Faulkner’s works, itis true, as Kern supposes, that BarnBurningis anachronistic in the sense that it is more similar to ancient epicpoems that it is akin to the modern contemporary literature of itstime.

Itis true, as Kern suggests, that Faulkner’s anachronistic aestheticis an asset, as it allows him to capture perfectly the decay of theAmerican south in the post-Reconstruction era. An example of howFaulkner manages to illustrate this decay is by setting the Justiceof Peace’s office in a tiny store that sells meat and cheese thisshows that the economy was doing so badly after the Reconstructionthat the government could not afford decent offices for legalauthorities. Faulkner writes, “The store in which the justice ofthe Peace`s court was sitting smelled of cheese” (Meyer 406)

Anotherexample of Faulkner’s anachronistic aesthetic can be seen in hisdepiction of family values. Clearly, Abner is the head of the familyand since he is so, everybody is supposed to obey him and toleratehim even when he is wrong. For instance, Sarty was forced to lie onthe stand by providing false evidence that his father did not burndown the barn of his employer Mr. Harris. In the past, families wereexclusively patriarchal the father was considered the most powerfulmember of the family, hence, was to be always obeyed and revered.Inherently, the portrayal of Abner in this manner is anachronisticdue to the fact that most works of modern contemporary works focusedon illustrating the empowerment of women and the disappearance ofpatriarchal norms.

Lastly,Faulkner demonstrates his use of anachronism by mimicking the speechpatterns of the simple agrarian family that is at the center of thestory in BarnBurning thisadds realism in the story and allows the reader’ mind to teleportback to the post-Reconstruction era. For instance, when Lennie asksSarty whether he was injured after his scuffle with another boyduring his father’s hearing, he replies “Naw,…Hit don’t hurt.Lemme be” (Meyer 408). Intrinsically, this perfectly captures themanner in which sharecroppers spoke in the post-Reconstructionperiod.

Conclusively,true to Kern’s observations Faulkner relies on the use ofanachronism to make Barn Burning seem more realistic and believable.Evidence of this approach is seen in how Faulkner paints the decayand poverty of the town this can be seen in the way he sets theJustice of Peace’s office in a small store that sells cheese andmeat instead of a magnificent building or courtroom. Faulkner alsocaptures ancient family values perfectly by capturing Sarty’sfather as the absolute head of the family who should be reveredalways and never questioned or defied regardless of his mistakes.Finally, the manner in which Faulkner mimics the old speech patternsof sharecroppers allows readers to place themselves in the past, inwhich the story is set. In such a manner, Kern is correct to statethat anachronism is an inherent style in Faulkner’s BarnBurning.


Kern,David. “‘Barn Burning’ and Faulkner’s Uniquely AnachronisticAesthetic.” n.d. Web.

Meyer,Michael.&nbspTheBedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, and Writing.Bedford/St Martins, 2016.