Throughout the story “Barn Burning”, author William Faulkner conveys the moral growth and development of a young boy, as he must make a critical decision between either choosing his family and their teachings or his own morals and values. The reader should realize that the story “Barn Burning” was written in the 1930’s, a time of economic, social, and cultural turmoil. Faulkner carries these themes of despair into the story of the Snopes family.
Faulkner opens the story, “Barn Burning” in a southern courthouse room of the during the Civil War reconstruction era, also a time of social, cultural, and economic instability. At this point in the story the main characters, Abner (Ab) and his son, Colonel Sartoris Snopes (Sarty) are introduced. Ab is on trial for the malicious burning of a barn that was owned by a wealthy local farmer.
For Sarty’s entire life he and his family had been living in poverty. His father, who had always been jealous of “the good life”, takes his frustrations out against the post-Civil war aristocracy by burning the barns of wealthy farmers. As most fathers do, Ab makes the attempt to pass his traits and beliefs on to his son, whom does not necessarily agree nor fully understand his father’s standpoint. The following passage is an example of how Sarty is taught that both legal justice and wealth is the enemy of his family: He could not see the table where the Justice sat and before which his father and his father’s enemy (our enemy he thought in that despair; ourn! Mine and hisn both! He’s my father!) stood, but he could not hear them, the two of them that is, because his father had said no word yet.
After the Justice had declared that there was not a substantial amo...
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...cept the end of man… I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” I believe that Faulkner displayed this belief throughout this story. He shows that Sarty is a “soul” that is compassionate when he mourns his father in the last few paragraphs of the story. He exemplifies sacrifice when Sarty must sacrifice the safety and lives of his family members for his own morals. Finally, Faulkner conveys endurance when the child comes to the realization that he may not return to the surviving members of his family, and that he must continue to live on his own.
Meyer, M., Ed., (1999). The Bedford Introduction to Literature, 5th Ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin.
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