William Faulkner elected to write “Barn Burning” from his young character Sarty’s perspective because his sense of morality and decency would present a more plausible conflict in this story. Abner Snopes inability to feel the level of remorse needed to generate a truly moral predicament in this story, sheds light on Sarty’s efforts to overcome the constant “pull of blood”(277) that forces him to remain loyal to his father. As a result, this reveals the hidden contempt and fear Sarty has developed over the years because of Abner’s behavior. Sarty’s struggle to maintain an understanding of morality while clinging to the fading idolization of a father he fears, sets the tone for a chain of events that results in his liberation from Abner’s destructive defiance-but at a costly price.
Sarty’s dilemma arises from his father’s destructive envy of his wealthy employers. Abner Snopes frustration with being a poor sharecropper owned “body and soul”(280) by the South’s rich and elite leads him to exact his revenge on the undeserving blue bloods in the only way he knows how-by burning down their barns. While Sarty’s loyalty to Abner is proven after a court hearing held by “his father’s enemy . . . our enemy . . .ourn! mine and hisn both,”(277) after which he challenges and is beaten by a boy “half again his size”(278) because the boy called his father a “barn burner”(278) he is left to make a critical decision between saving his family or his own morality.
What prompts Sarty to betray his own moral character is his fear of Abner, who he describes as the “black, flat, and bloodless . . . voice harsh like tin and without heat like tin”(279). Time and again, Sarty has witnesse...
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...utweighed only by his need to get to him. So, he runs harder, faster than ever and then “knowing it was too late,”(287) Sarty hears the shots. Bang . . . . .Bang! Bang! And it is over. The night is quiet save for the distant echo of a young boy’s agonizing screams “Father! Father!”(287)
Sarty spent his entire life hiding behind the unspoken rule that blood is thicker than water. But, in the face of having to decide whether he should continue to overlook Abner’s amoral behavior, he chooses not to. Even though he tries to understand Abner’s reasoning, in his heart he cannot condone it. In a situation where Sarty-the child would be frightened to stand up against his father, Sarty-the man is not. It is unfortunate that he had to lose a father in order to regain his sense of morality, but in light of the situation he was in, it can be agreed, that he is better off.
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