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Cultural Criticism of Barn Burning by William Faulkner Essay

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Cultural Criticism of Barn Burning by William Faulkner

In William Faulkner's "Barn Burning", a young boy must face his father and face

the reality of a racist society. He must also discover for himself that his father is wrong

and learn to grow up the right way in a racial environment. Faulkner's setting is one of

the most important literary elements in the story. He takes a young black boy and puts

him in a real world of chaos and disorder. In the South, race is one of the most important

factors in how one would live his or her life. The only way he can retain his own dignity in

the end is to believe in his own courage and goodwill.

The young boy, Sartoris, has a kind of loyalty for his father, Abner Snopes. He

admires him and everything he does. He believes that his father is always right.

In the beginning of the story, Sartoris (Sarty) is faced with his first major conflict.

He is in the court room as a witness to a barn burning. The judge can only pardon Abner

because Sarty is too young and can not be used as the key witness, but the judge tells

them they must leave the country for their own safety and the safety of others. All the

while Sarty thinks to himself how he must not talk to the white men. "Our enemy... ourn!

mine and hisn both! He's my father!" (397). He sees the white men in the courthouse as

the enemy, even the judge. In Sarty's mind, the judge is the enemy because he is white.

He only believes so because that is how he was raised to believe.

After they leave the country, Abner gets into trouble again. This time Sarty stays

loyal to himself instead of his father. He warns a man named Major de Spain about his

barn burni...


... middle of paper ...


...n time.

Growing up in the South, Faulkner gives a good perspective on what it was like for

the black man in the South in the early 1900's. This story deals partly with racial

discrimination and oppression of a certain social class. It also deals with how a young

man (Sarty) can deal with the situation he is borne into. He can either rise to the

occasion and beat the odds and become a better man, or he can follow in the footsteps

of his father and his father before him. He came to a certain point in his life where one

decision could determine what kind of person he would be. He made the right choice. He

followed the law instead of being a bitter man toward the white race like his father turned

out to be. This story can be deceptive in its simplicity. It is simply a matter of a young

man choosing between right and wrong.


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