There are many ways to interpret short stories and one of the many themes that sticks out in this particular work is they use of symbology. The author uses the barn as an anchor point to weave the story of this family’s life. It starts with the neglect of a promise made at marriage and gives light to the treatment of his family as compared to his livestock. The mother in the story, Sarah Penn, is quoted in a confrontation with her husband stating:
“Now, father,” said she, “I want to know if you think you’re doin’ right an’ accordin’ to what you profess. Here, when we was married, forty year ago, you promised me faithful that we should have a new house built in that lot over in the field before the year was out. You said you had money enough, an’ you wouldn’t ask me to live in no such place as this. It is forty year now, an’ you’ve been makin’ more money, an’ I’ve been savin’ of it for you ever since, an’ you ain’t built no house yet.” (Freeman 1987).
This is preceded by the mother giving a lashing to her husband about the current state of the house they are living in despite his financial status. She brings up the fact that there is no carpeting, the wall paper is dirty and peeling off the walls, the smallness of the room they have been sharing and the state of the living quarters of their two children being ,“…ain’t so good as your horse’s stall; it ain’t so warm an’ tight.” (Freeman 1987). The novel ends with the husband going away for a short while and the mother moving her family into the barn which had been built to better standards and comfort level than their current home.
The Author uses the symbol of the barn as a way of describing how the father in the story has not kept his promise and his treatment of his family. When he returns home, he comes to the realization that building that barn instead of a good house for them was a mistake and, contrary to what you think would happen, he does not get mad or upset at his wife for what she has done. He sees that she had been waiting patiently all of this time and that “Why, mother,” he said, hoarsely, “I hadn’t no idee you was so set on’t as all this comes to.”(Freeman 1987).