The family seems to exist outside of society and even outside the law, and their moral code is based on family loyalty rather than traditional notions of right or wrong.
Snopes tells Sartoris that he should remain loyal to his “blood,” or family, or he will find himself alone.
However, after Snopes once again plans to burn a barn, Sartoris understands that family loyalty comes at too great a cost and is too heavy a burden.
He rejects family loyalty and instead betrays his father, warning de Spain that his barn is about to be burned.
For example, when the Snopeses are leaving the makeshift courthouse at the beginning of the story, a local boy accuses Snopes of being a barn burner, and, when Sartoris whirls around to confront him, the boy hits Sartoris and bloodies his face.
The blood, dried and caked on his face during the ride out of town, is, in a way, a mark of pride: Sartoris had defended the family name.
Subtle word choices also help trace Sarty’s move toward maturity and responsibility.
Hearing the shots that announce his father’s death, Sarty first cries, “Pap! ” but seconds later shifts to the more mature sounding “Father! ” Images of cold and heat, of stiffness and metal, help characterize Abner Snopes.
For Sarty, however, the stiffness will not last: “Walking would cure that too as it would the cold, and soon there would be the sun.” Any discussion of William Faulkner in a historical context necessarily involves a discussion of modernism, the philosophical and artistic movement to which Faulkner, perhaps reluctantly, belonged.
Modernism is generally considered the peculiarly twentieth-century school of artistic expression, and it is associated in literature with, for example, the poetry of T. Eliot and Ezra Pound the painting of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso the music of Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, and the prose fiction of James Joyce Marcel Proust, John Dos Passos, and Faulkner.