Growth in William Faulkner’s Barn Burning and James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues

Growth in William Faulkner’s Barn Burning and James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues

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Growth in William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”


The word family evokes an image of trust and a bond of loyalty. In William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”, the main characters in both these stories demonstrate the idea of family loyalty in several ways. While they continue to express the values of family loyalty, the main characters have to overcome several obstacles. Searching for ways to communicate effectively with their families and maintaining their changing identities trap the characters. In “Barn Burning”, Sarty is conflicted with being loyal to his family and being loyal to himself and in “Sonny’s Blues”, the brother has to deal with being loyal to Sonny’s values. During this process, it changes their character and forces them to change and learn about themselves.

In “Barn Burning”, Sarty is emotionally torn by two personalities, one being loyal to his Father, and the other is being loyal to society because in his mind, he knows he’s doing the right thing. But in the beginning of the story, Sarty’s personality starts to pull when the Justice of the Peace is questioning him. Sarty has the need to tell the truth yet with his Father’s dominating presence there, he cannot do it. “He aims for me to lie, he thought again with that frantic grief and despair,” (p.398). In one sentence, there is an instant clear meaning that Sarty is distraught in making decisions having to involve his Father. In this moment though, he also feels his Father’s emotions penetrating right into his body through his Father, “did not even look at him” (p.398). Sarty’s sense of loyalty sides strongly with family due to the fact of how he was raised. The time period in which the stor...


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...nally figured out what Sonny’s dream was when he saw him play his music and the joy that Sonny felt, he felt it too and understood music is Sonny’s way of living, his life unleashed through music. Even though both stories tell a different tale, this quote applies to the brother and Sarty because they both had to rely on their self-intuition to help them understand the ordeals they went through to reach a final decision. “Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen…” (P.216)

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction Poetry, and Drama. 7th edition. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Longman, 1999. 272-295.

Faulkner, William. "Barn Burning." The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. 3th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. 1554-66.

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