The nature of the relationship between father and son in "Barn Burning" is displayed in the first paragraph of the story. In general a father-son relationship would be built on genuine respect, love, loyalty, and admiration. These building blocks were absent in the relationship of Abner and Sarty Snopes. Sarty's loyalty to his father appeared to come from a long time fear of the consequences of not obeying his father's commands. The "nigger" that could place the blame on Abner was not to be found. Was Faulkner inferring by this statement that the individual had been killed? If Abner had so little moral value to destroy a man's property, surely to protect himself from persecution he could destroy a man's life. .
Sarty knew he "smelled cheese, and more." He smelled the "fierce pull of blood," his father's blood, the blood of the family name, Snopes. Sarty knew he was also the son of the "barn burner." A name he heard hissing as they passed by boys in town. Sarty fought to defend his father and when hurt, he seemed to need the blood to remain for a while as a reminder of why he stayed with the man. Sarty viewed his father at times as "bloodless" and cut from "tin." Sarty could usually convince himself why his father was this way. The fact escaped him that Abner chose to be a horse "trader" for four years hiding from the blue and the gray armies to exist by stealing or "capturing," as he called it, horses. .
Was Sarty to become a man like his father? It seems to be the fear that Sarty may have worried about many times. Young boys usually acquire the desire at sometime in their life to simulate their fathers' actions, perspectives on life and mannerisms. Fathers are examples to how they would like their sons to be. Abner probably thought it was the only way to be. .
Abner's past was not Sarty's; his future was not to be Sarty's either, for their views on life and the people in it were quite different.