Barn Burning

Explains why William Faulkner’s tale could be considered a ‘reverse quest’.

William Faulkner once commented that there is only one story, that of the quest, the seeking after something that is either lost or that was never obtained to begin with. This paper examines Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” as a reverse-quest – the tale of the boy who is seeking redemption from his father’s enslaved state.
The boy, on the other hand, still believes that he can redeem himself. He deceives himself about his father’s character, believing him to have been a better and braver man than he was. But even such fantasizing is a form of action in the world, and this combined with the fact that he alerts the family that his father is trying to burn their barn makes us believe that he will not be defeated and enslaved by life as his father was. He will see life as a quest, for having cast off the curse of his father he is free to set off on his own quest for wealth, perhaps, or happiness, or merely a continuing sense of agency in the world.