Barn Burning: Sarty's Struggle
The theme of William Faulkner's Barn Burning is Colonel Sartoris Snope's desire to break away from the oppressive conditions of his family life. He is pulled between his family and his morality. In this essay, I will discuss Sarty's struggle between the two sides of his conflict and the point at which it becomes resolved.
First, we will look at Sarty's pull towards his family. At the first trial, we find Sarty looking at his father's opponent sitting behind the table. Sarty identifies him as "his father's enemy", but he quickly changes his thought to "our enemy". Then after the trial, Sarty fights a boy twice his size because the boy yells out, "Barn Burner." These two instances are attempts by Sarty to fit himself into his family. He feels he might be able to do this by taking up his father's offense. Later in the story, after Abner has ruined the rug, Sarty says to his father, "You done the best you could! If he wanted hit done different why didn't he wait and tell you how! He won't git no twenty bushels! He won't git none! We'll gether hit and hide hit!" This is another attempt by Sarty to find his place. Although he knows his father is guilty of ruining the rug, he is willing to help his father hide the crop to avoid paying damages. His father, Abner, even tries to influence Sarty's decision. After camping the first night, Abner takes Sarty aside and tells him, "You got to learn. You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain't going to have any blood to stick to you." These attempts to defend his family and his father in particular are his way of exploring this realm of his conflict. He is trying to find out if there is a place for him. H...
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... is at this point that Abner realizes that he has made his decision. Abner tries to contain him by having his mother hold him but Sarty gets free and runs to warn the de Spains. It is at this point that we know the end to the conflict has arrived. Instead of running back to the house to help with the fire, Sarty runs into the wood and continues to run. He is leaving and he is not looking back. He decides to stand on the side of morality and turns his back on his family.
Sartoris Snope resolved his dilemma by exploring both sides of the coin. He then found something that represents his ideal situation, the de Spain plantation. Then he made his decision and he did not look back. The conflict that Faulkner brings to life in the Barn Burning is not uncommon. We each face a similar struggle at some point to find our morality. It is simply part of the human condition.
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