An eleven-page, text-based, fill-in-the-blank handout in which your students will explore in depth the structure of Faulkner’s brilliant, but somewhat difficult, short story “Barn Burning.” This analysis of structure includes the inciting moment or the major problem of the story, its climax, and its denouement or final resolution where recognition and reversal (or surprise ending) occur. By studying this structural pattern in “Barn Burning,” your students should be able to apply it to other short stories.
In the last parts of the handout your students will focus on analyses of the protagonist and antagonist of “Barn Burning” and the story’s theme.
This student handout is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity, especially small-group work.
A four-page answer key, beginning on a separate page, follows.
Not as part of the student handout, I have appended twenty-one pages of paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on the story, dealing with vocabulary (particularly southern regional expressions); historical, cultural, agricultural, biblical, and mythological allusions; symbolic names in “Barn Burning”; and the wide range of Faulkner’s stylistic characteristics, all of which make him stand head and shoulders above his contemporaries Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Nevertheless, in these notes I do reveal four previously undetected errors made by Faulkner himself in the story (two verbal and two plot timeline contradictions).
Designed for Faulkner aficionados (of whom I am proudly one), some of these notes you may choose to incorporate into your class’s discussion of “Barn Burning.” These notes should also allow you to address any questions by your students beyond the points in their handout.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.