In William Faulkner’s story, Barn Burning a young boy by the name of Colonel Sartoris Snopes, who is also called Sarty is being put in positions to lie to authoritative forces in different communities in order to protect his father, Abner from punitive consequences of burning down the neighbor(s) barns out of hatred. Sarty’s role in Barn Burning is a debate of legitimate and sacred relationships between father and son that are initiated out of lies and testimonies, jeopardizing Sarty’s personal honesty, innocence, and values.
The story takes place in Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi in an era of poverty and recession during the 1930s. The father, Abner is a cold-hearted, cruel, and brutally angry man who believes in family loyalty. He feels the need to chastise the rest of the world out of animosity if he is offended in any manner, regardless if he has been proven to be guilty or not. He retaliates to the other party through arson of burning down their property barn if he feels threatened in any manner.
Sarty, the son originally respects his father because of his assistance approximately two decades prior to serving to the military duty and after being named after one of the Colonels. He also accepts his family’s status from the 1930’s era, found in southern families without regard to money or social status within the different communities he lived amongst. The family has moved around several times due to the father’s hatred and illegal arsonist activities to the neighbors, in burning down their barns and the family has suffered the consequences by authoritative forces. Eventually, the young adolescent, a ten-year-old boy, Sarty is called Barn Burner by another kid his age. He and his family become exhausted and disgusted of their father’s actions and continuous detrimental activities out of hatred.
After a prior barn burning incident from their prior community, Sarty felt the need to dispute his father’s word but at the same time he also felt an impulsive sense of loyalty to his family after his father telling him, You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to. Meaning that blood is thicker than water and he needed to stay loyal to his family regardless if something committed was wrong or right. Sarty acknowledged that his father was instilling him to lie and that he would need to support this type of behavior to keep a core bond with his family. He was not bold enough to stand up to his father and tell him how ethically wrong his word was and how he believed differently. Sarty continued to hope that the multiple moves the family made, and new beginnings would change his father’s behavior and he would realize that the pattern would continue to replay itself if he did not change. His father, Abner relied on the whole Snopes family for support, compliance, and security of his actions. It is apparent that he also wanted protection, collaboration, and most of all loyalty from all of his family members.
In existence at ten-years-old, Sarty had an impression of what was right and what was wrong and having to lie for his father places him in a great battle with his moral beliefs and values. He was far too young, at ten-years-old to understand his father’s actions and why he was influencing and bleeding this type of behavior throughout the family or his purpose for it. The father was defiant and acted as if he had more power than the authoritative forces and he was not going to conform to any consequences he was deemed for by the Justice Department.
From his mother, Lennie’s influences and learnings, Sarty knew in his heart what was happening from his father’s wrongdoings.
An example of the father’s defiant behavior is when the boy and his father arrive at De Spain’s immaculate plantation house where the father was going to receive work and the family is housed, after being banned from their prior community. The boy, Sarty is fascinated by how big and beautiful the house is and thinks perhaps it is possible for him to have a house like that someday. The father demands to come in the house, when the Major was not there and he intentionally ruins their rug they got from Paris, France by stepping in horse manure and rubbing it all over the expensive, lavishing rug with his shoes. De Spain, the Major returns it to Abner to be cleaned, then Abner deliberately cleans it so hard and puts holes in the rug to further destroy it. The judge finds Abner guilty of the offenses and Abner is demanded to pay $5.00 worth of earning to De Spain from the profit of his farm. Abner instantly refuses to pay for the damages and has the motive to repay De Spain with turning his barn into a blazing kerosene fire, burning it down to the ground as he has done to others in the past when he felt he was being wronged.
When the barn instance occurs, Sarty then again knew it was wrong of his father but this time, he goes to De Spain’s houses and screams out, Barn, Barn to warn the Major of what his father was doing because he knows it was wrong and unethical. Sarty realizes he has gone against his father’s word and is never able to return back to his family for betraying him. Sarty heard multiple gunshots fired and they could have potentially killed his father and brother in the act but it is unknown.
This is an extremely sad story and it hurts my heart when individuals have to cut off toxic family members because they are a bad influence, do not possess any ethical values, or become detrimental to your health. But this is a great story and Faulkner proves it to be a lesson to be learned by many, even at a young age like Sarty who only wanted peace at ten-years-old.
The overall story concludes that the father Abner’s poisonous choices affected the others in the family. The courageous and brave boy, Sarty had to be true to his self and break the binding blood ties. He no longer wanted to fear or suffer from the misery of his father’s wrongdoings. Not to mention, he realizes that his father will never change for the better of him and the family. Sarty no longer wants to be a part of his father’s defiant behavior and unethical wrongdoings and wants a better life. He made the decision and knew the consequences of ratting out his father but discovers he will finally be set free from his father’s destructive behavior and bad hatred attitude. With the action of betraying his father, he feels relieved of the bad influential consequences his father has caused him and the family, while also discovering the freedom to hopefully live a worthier and more meaningful life than what his father put his family through.
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