Barn Burning

Satisfactory Essays
Sarty's betrayal of his father in William Faulkner's story "Barn Burning" is justified. The reader is introduced to Sarty's father as he is being tried for burning the barn of Mr. Harris. Lacking evidence, the Justice of the Peace drops the charges against Abner Snopes, Sarty's father, and he is ordered to leave the country. A harsh image of Sarty's father is presented in the line, "he [Sarty] followed the stiff black coat, the wiry figure walking a little stiffly from where a Confederate provost's man's musket ball had taken him in the heel on a stolen horse thirty years ago" (2177). The reader is given insight into Snopes' shady past and learns he has never been a law-abiding citizen. Sarty's inner turmoil centers around his sense of loyalty to his father and his own conflict with knowing his father's actions are wrong. Through Faulkner's use of stream-of-consciousness narration, the reader is aware of Sarty's thoughts. In one instance, Sarty alludes to Mr. Harris as "his father's enemy (our enemy he thought in that despair, ourn, mine and hisn both! He's my father!)" (2176). Upon hearing the hiss of someone accusing his father of burning barns, Sarty feels "the old fierce pull of blood" and is blindly thrust into a fight, only to be physically jerked back by his father's hand and his cold voice ordering him to get in the wagon. As the Snopes' family leaves town, Sarty consoles himself with the hope that this will be the last time his father commits the act that he cannot bring himself to even think of : "Maybe he's done satisfied now, now that he has" (2177). Deep down, Sarty knows his father is not going to end his destructive rampage. Ten-year-old Sarty cannot understand the true reasons for his father's actions: "that the element of fire spoke to some deep mainspring of his father's being," and, even more importantly, the fire served as "the one weapon for the preservation of [his] integrity" (2178). Sarty's thoughts when he realizes he might be questioned regarding the barn burning reflect the fear and despair he experiences: "He aims for me to lie. And I will have to do hit" (2176). Later, Sarty's father violently reminds him that blood is thicker than water when he accuses Sarty of being ready to betray him.
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