One of the most common notions about young boys in the society today is that as they grow up, they will try their best to emulate or act as their father. Alternatively, they may try to emulate another strong and influential male figure who has been actively involved in their growth and development. This inadvertently means that some boys will grow up and turn up exactly as their dads while others will generally develop a self identity sense together with the capability to distinguish between what is wrong or right (Morgan 34).
Barn Burning by William Faulkner is a tale of a young lad’s conflict between devotion to family and doing what he perceives to be inherently and morally right. The conflict is illustrated vividly through the young boy named Sarty who has to confront this enormous dilemma head on, as he goes through initiation from childhood to manhood.
This dilemma is brought out in the beginning of the story where in makeshift courtroom, the young boy’s father; Mr. Abner Snopes is being prosecuted for an arson crime. Mr. Snopes is accused of being the arsonist behind the burning of a barn belonging to a certain Mr. Harris. The young Sarty is overwhelmed by this scenario and he refers to it as ‘pull of blood’ (Faulkner 85). This is because he has to stand there and defend the actions of his father.
This brings out an implication that Sarty clearly aware of the fact that the actions of his father are wrong morally. However, he has the ultimate obligation to defend and support him simply because he is a member of his family.
The predicament that Sarty is facing is then compounded when he is called to the stand to testify. He immediately develops the sense that there is an expectation from his father to remain loyal to his own fresh and blood in spite of his crimes. He is therefore very nervous as he walks past his father on his way to the stand.
When he is finally on the stand, his nervousness is still very vivid to the members of the court audience including his father. It therefore becomes very obvious to his father that his son could be about to acknowledge his guilt. The judge however dismisses him before he can fully spill the beans about his father’s actions. However, when he sets foot outside and hears some young boys referring to his father as a guilty barnburner, he engages them in a fierce fight on impulse to defend his father. Here, blood loyalty importance is once again emphasized. In this particular case however, Mr. Snopes is declared innocent due to lack of admissible evidence.
Later, the father scolds and assaults the young boy about this rhapsody shouting to him about how he was about to expose him (Faulkner 88). Mr. .Snopes feels the obvious need to remind his son that he has to stick to his own blood because if he does not. His own blood will also not do the same for him.
The young boy’s confusion is once again illustrated after receiving the father’s tirade. He is of the opinion that if he had told his father that the court wanted the truth and justice, his father would have obviously hit him again. His father’s actions continue to trouble him. He is confused by the fact that at one instance, his father is advocating for loyalty while at the other instance, he clearly contradicts his beliefs through his betrayal of anyone and everyone who is on his path save for his family. Throughout the story, Sarty continues to be torn between being loyal and devoted to his family and giving justice to father’s victims.
Although he fully acknowledges that, his father is indeed a serial arsonist and barnburner, his still fight sand defends the integrity of his father. As he does this he simultaneously and fervently hopes that Mr., Snopes, his father will cease committing his erroneous acts.
When his father moves his family to another farm, Sarty hopes that this will be beginning of a new life. He is therefore quite optimistic because he thinks that the former actions of his father will, soon be outdated. However, Sarty is disappointed when a new crisis emerges. His father is charged 20 corn bushels for destroying a rug belonging to MR. de Spain that was seemingly not very valuable. In this case, Sarty is supportive of his father since he views this as clear injustice. Even in court when his father is forced to pay 10 bushels instead of 20, he still supports him,
He however cannot stand the fact that his father will burn down de Spain’s barn in revenge. Sarty goes to warn Mr. de Spain who shoots his father who is on way to set fire to the barn. As he mourns his father, his terror and fear slowly to despair and grief as he reflects on his actions (Freedman and Davis 76).
William Faulkner story vividly describes the dilemma that very many members of the humanity race face. It shows the inadvertent consequences that this dilemma and clash of interests may eventually cause.
Faulkner, William. Barn Burning. Northbrook, Ill: Coronet Films & Video, 1980.
Freedman, Morris, and Davis, Paul B. Controversy in Literature: Fiction, Drama, and Poetry, with Related Criticism. New York: Scribner, 1968. Print.
Faulkner, William. “Barn Burning.” Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner. New York: The Modern Library, 1993. 1-25. 1962.
Morgan, Arthur. Moral Obligation against Family Devotion. 1st ed. Detroit, Michigan: Central Inc, 2008. Print.