“Barn Burning” by William Faulkner is the story of young Sarty’s conflict with his father Abner. Abner is a man who will not change his course for anything (including manure) and is a temperamental arsonist.
This story makes me think of a reversed story of Helios, whose son’s pride and recklessness scald the earth as well as kill him. Helios allows his son to drive the sun chariot against his better judgment and many lives are destroyed. Sarty also goes against his better judgment to testify against his father out of familial loyalty. His often reckless father commits arson when ever his pride is hurt. Sarty, like Helios ends up lamenting yet frustrated at his relative’s actions. Prometheus also stole fire (power) from the gods and gave it to man. Destruction is a power Abner has that brings him closer to the rich DeSpains-everyone is vulnerable to fire, and through its use Abner feels invincible.
This story also has an archetypal father vs. son power struggle. We can see this in stories of how Zeus overcame his father, the story of Oedipus, etc. Sarty is indirectly responsible for his father and brother’s deaths. With this he becomes the patriarch in the family, but also to some extent, its destroyer. When Sarty is called on to testify against his father and Abner later beats him for supposedly considering it, it shows the first severing of the father-son relationship.
In these scenes, Sarty is a helpless boy, by the time he runs away from home he is a power in his own right. Sarty’s familial duty gradually fades away as Sarty is unable to empathize with Abner. Sarty tells Abner he understands his anger, which Abner takes as implicit approval of arson. At this point Sarty realizes he must take over in order to survive and protect his family, much as many mythic sons kill their fathers in self-defense or as vengeance.