“Barn Burning” first appeared in print in Harper’s Magazine in 1939 (Pinion). It is a short story by William Faulkner which depicts a young boy in crisis as he comes to realize the truth about his father’s pyromania. Faulkner takes the reader inside the boy’s life as he struggles to remain loyal to his unstable father. In the end the boy’s courage and sense of justice wins and he not only walks away from his father’s iron clad control over his life, but he is able to warn his father’s next victim. To understand how this boy could make such a courageous, difficult decision we must review the important events in the story and the effect they have on him.
Faulkner’s first introduction of his protagonist, Colonel Sartoris Snopes or Sarty, appears in the second sentence of the story. Sarty is the ten-year old son of a dirt-poor, migrant, tenant farmer, Abner Snopes. Faulkner’s opening scene brings us into a general store that also serves as a make-shift court. Abner is being sued by a neighbor, Mr. Harris, for burning down his barn. Sarty’s father is a ruthless, violent and controlling man who uses his family to make himself feel powerful and important (Pinion).
The scene describes a starving Sarty as, “crouched on his nail keg at the back of the crowded room” (Faulkner 3). Sarty is tempted by food that he can smell but not eat. At first it appears that the boy is tagging along with his father and is left in the back of the store for convenience. Faulkner’s purpose for the boy’s presence at the hearing is not only to identify his physical hunger but to link that hunger with the boy’s growing need for justice.
Faulkner’s use of the image of the small boy surrounded by shelves filled with canned foods gives the reader an idea of wh...
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.... Sarty’s struggle within himself to find and follow his own voice reminds us that we struggle with acts of compassion, bravery, sacrifice and endurance daily and that we can choose how we live in the world. We choose evil or we choose what is right and just no matter the consequence.
Faulkner, William. Collected Stories of William Faulkner. Vers. 1943. Universal Library. 2 July. 2005. Web. 22 November 2013. PDF File.
Pinion, Randy. "Literary Analysis Faulkner’s Barn Burning." Humanities 360.com. 16 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "Barn Burning." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Barn Burning.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
“William Faulkner - Banquet Speech.” Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
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