Barn Burning by William Faulkner: Exploring the Complexities of Truth and Family Loyalty

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When you state untrue statements it is said to be lying. Lying is a very contradictory thing that people do everyday without even realizing. Under certain circumstances people can find themselves lying to protect themselves, their families and loved ones, and their business endeavors. Often times when people have to lie, their judgement is tested whether personally, lawfully, or spiritually, sometimes it's all at once. Lying is a judgement call that is hard to make but sometimes necessary to hide a truth that someone does not want to unveil about their own personal truth. People stop lying when they find their own identity and truth.

In the short story, Barn Burning by William Faulkner, he uses the character Colonel Sartoris Snopes, Satry, to examine the depths of the father and son relationship through the third person limited point of view of the observant child to his father, Abner.
"You were fixing to tell them. You would have told him." He didn't answer. 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, exactly as he would strike either of them with any stick in order to kill a horse fly, his voice still without heat or anger: "You're getting to be a man. 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. Do you think either of them, any man there this morning, would? Don't you know all they wanted was a chance to get at me because they knew I had them beat? Eh?" Later, twenty years later, he was to tell himself, "If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have hit me again." But now he said nothing. (Barn Burning The Norton Introduction To Literature. Faulkner. P 25 pg 228)

Abner tried to use force and intimidation on his son to maintain the family name for something that was not morally right. The father thought that the son had to be a man, and being a man was lying for his father's actions which Satry knew were wrong.

Satry is faced with the dilemma of protecting his father and family name all while trying to understand his own path in life. Satry as a child had to make an important choice, that forced him to make boundaries for himself. Although, he kept his loyalty for his family the first time, he was forced to make his own decision and defy his father the second time. Satry knew his father would continue to do the same thing and had to make a choice that he knew his father would be upset with. One could believe he gained his independence and own self identity by choosing what was right over what was wrong.

Throughout the story, Faulkner explores different family dynamics through domestic violence and displays it through Abner's controlling nature. The different relationships each character has with Abner shows how important the father is to the family. The father and son relationship is a complex relationship as far as showing loyalty and strength within the family. A son should respect their father but never should a son have to lie for his father's action. Being a man comes with standing behind your word and actions. Also, not allowing another man to face the repercussions of their own action. If a man chooses to act poorly, he should face their own consequences head on. There are different ways to discipline children and physical force with members of your family may not be the best option.

People shouldn't have to lie for another individual or take on another person's responsibility for actions that did not involve them. Faulkner portrays this through Satry's internal dialogue of hoping his father would eventually do right as a man and a father. Maybe he will feel it too. Maybe it will even change him now from what maybe he couldn't help but be.(Barn Burning The Norton Introduction To Literature. Faulkner. P 25 pg 228) People are their own human beings and make decisions based on their own personal needs and wants. People generally do not have the same motives in life as others. It is clear that Faulkner and Satry wanted to live two different realities.

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Barn Burning by William Faulkner: Exploring the Complexities of Truth and Family Loyalty. (2020, Jun 17). Retrieved June 25, 2024 , from

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