In William Faulkner’s short story, “Barn Burning” we can follow the transition of a child from a loyal and devoted son to a law obeying citizen. The inadvertent transition is done by his own father and his rather cruel exercise of fatherhood. As a result of abusive parenting, and the lack of love, the son learns how to separate loyalty from morality even if he has to pay a hefty price: the loss of the father, whom he adored once as a brave soldier.
After describing the first scene in the novel, we understand that boy is sitting in a department store that serves also as a courtroom, and simply observing his surroundings in details until he is called by the judge to testify in this case against his father. Knowing the truth and knowing that he has to lie about it, terrifies him as he says: “He aims for me to lie, he thought, again with that frantic grief and despair. And I will have to do hit.” He shows unconditional loyalty toward his father by remaining silent, and forcing the judge who he sees as the “enemy”, to dismiss the case due to the lack of evidence. His devotion is depicted further as they leave the courtroom, and the boy gets in to an altercation with a bystander, “half again his size”, hissing at them: "Barn burner!" However his steadfastness to his father is not rewarded but rather expected by his brutal man.
The father’s poor parenting skill, slowly erodes the boy’s loyalty. Instead of rewarding the boy for his dedication, he wakes him up after a meager dinner, takes him away from the campfire and beats him: “ His father struck him with the flat of his hand on the side of the head, hard but without heat, exactly as he had struck the two mules at the store”. Sarty is only ten, ...
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... his father about the report he just made. He knows, that his father is in danger, but he is not ready for the scale of that threat: “, knowing it was too late yet still running even after he heard the shot “. By alarming the farmer, Sarty did what was morally right, even if he had to pay a hefty price.
While his father was a cruel man, he was Sarty’s father after all, and the boy loved him deep in his heart: “ running on among the invisible trees, panting, sobbing, "Father! Father!"”. Sarty lost the man he remembered as a brave soldier: “ Father. My father, he thought. "He was brave!" he cried”. But he also grew up suddenly when he was able to make the call against his own feelings, and do the morally right thing of reporting his own father. The transformation from a devoted loyal son to a young citizen was painful and final: “He did not look back”.
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