William Faulkner during the 1930’s

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Barn burning is a story created by William Faulkner during the 1930’s about a 10-year-old son of a sharecropper. Written as it was, at the ebb of the 1930s, a decade of social, economic, and cultural tumult, the decade of the Great Depression (Byrne). Families with their opposing social values spurred his imagination at a time when he wrote about the passing of a conservative, agricultural South and the opening up of the South to a new era of modernization (Byrne).

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One of the ideas that William focuses on in this story would be the way Sarty grows as a character between disagreeing with his dad’s social class belief and how he handles it. He has to choose between being faithful to his family or to the law. The son of the sharecropper is named Colonel Sartoris Snope his nickname in the story would be Sarty, he is known as the protagonist of the story. One of the struggles he must put of with is his is the way his dad has destroyed him and his family’s way of living and reputation. Sarty has never agreed with the way his father takes everything to a violent and revengeful level instead of thinking his actions through. Abner Snopes, is the father of Sarty and he is considered the antagonist of the story.

He is considered a soldier and a father that seeks revenge because during this time there is so many discriminations against your type of race and the only way, he feels better is by burning the owners barn down and then getting away and moving to a new town and doing the same. Eventually Sarty feels like lying and defending his dad all the time in court instead of saying the truth isn’t going to get him anywhere. One of the reasons he starts changing his mind is when they move to De Spains land. This house was so different to all the twelve houses they had moved to before it was like a big courthouse for him. Its bigness-“Hit’s big as a courthouse”-to his fresh eyes seems to guarantee safety, dignity, and peace from the barn-burning menace of his father (Byrne).

One of the lessons that his father was tried to get from all his action was set an example for his kids he didn’t expect to change no matter what place they were living in. Also, Abner tries teaching his son how to be loyal to his own blood in the story he says, You got to learn how to be loyal to your own blood, or you aren’t going to have any blood to stick to you (Faulkner). Once they move into the mansion Abner starts encountiring problems already he purposelly steps on Mrs. De Spains rug that was white and gets it dirty and it angers her so she charges him a payment of twenty bushels of corn against him.

This then causes tension at the heart of Abner’s defiance is his awareness that the man in the big house “aims to begin owning me body and soul for the next eight months” (Byrne). This outrage at his plight as tenant farmer fuels the father’s rebellion against the class structure (Byrne). To attack the aristocratic class, Abner Snopes deliberately builds his fires to bum the property owned by the boss and twice destroys the rug (Byrne). This then starts angering Sarty because for once in his life he feels like his dad was going to change and that is the reason why they have moved to a different place then what they are used to it. In this part of the story is where Sarty grows as a character he plans to stop his dad this time from his plan. His dad already knew that Sarty was going to plan to stop him and tell De Spain so he tells his mother to hold him back but somehow he escapes.

When Sarty warns the de Spain household of his father’s intention to bum the barn, he supports the Fugitive/agrarian South without fully comprehending his father’s rage against the flip side of the Old South, people as chattel (Byrne). Sarty takes a big step by warning de Spain in going against his father. In that moment he felt like what he did was wrong but then he realizes that what he did was for the best. At the end of the story it shows him moving on and him not looking back. Clearly in this tale of initiation, one of moral choices and their consequences, Faulkner recreates Southern class differences and racial distinctions at the close of the decade of the 1930s (Byrne).

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William Faulkner During The 1930's. (2020, Mar 10). Retrieved February 5, 2023 , from

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