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“Barn Burning” a Story by William Faulkner Essay

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Updated: Aug 29th, 2020

Introduction

It is imperative to mention that Barn Burning is one of the most well-known short stories by William Faulkner, an American writer. Moreover, it is viewed as a masterpiece by many critics and it has led to many discussions. One of the most important aspects that should not be overlooked is that several themes are mentioned throughout the work. The author suggests that the law should be valued above family values because one may not be able to live with an emotional burden.

Discussion

The story is focused on the relationships between a son and a father and what complications may occur if children get involved in criminal activities. The story starts with the introduction of its central topic, and the reader may get a better understanding of characters that are involved. It is necessary to understand that Sarty was aware of what his father was doing but still felt the need to defend him. However, he realized that this behavior is not acceptable in any society, and he was burdened by an enormous sense of guilt.

He acknowledges the fact that every individual has a set of responsibilities and the rights of others must be respected in a civilized society. Another aspect that is worth noting is that it is entirely possible that the boy has recognized that Abner is emotionally unstable and requires the support. However, he was too confident and stubborn to accept ideas of others and most likely would not change as a person because he was used to this style of life and behavior. Moreover, many individuals act like this in the modern society, and it is understandable that such actions seem reasonable. However, the harm that was caused was enormous, and the level of suspicion also should not be overlooked.

These actions seemed unreasonable, and he understood that it may lead to severe consequences. The problem is that he was very young and children should not have to deal with such tough situations and make complicated decisions. The violence against children is another aspect that should not be overlooked because it may be a traumatizing experience in some cases. It is important to understand that psychological damage may be irreversible most of the time, and it would affect their lives. It is necessary to note that he had an enormous trust in his father, and was willing to defend him from enemies and problem that may occur. However, his perspective has changed over the course of the story, and he has recognized that some people may not be capable of changing.

Furthermore, it is paramount to mention that the author wanted to draw attention to some of the biggest problems that are present in our society. The fact that situation has not changed over the years also needs to be discussed. There are still numerous instances of children protecting their parents, and it is especially problematic when their actions are harmful. The problem is that close ones have an enormous impact on actions and behavior of an individual, and one is incredibly worried about possible consequences of reporting an offense.

Moreover, it is hard to imagine how the life would change as a result, and it may become even much worse than before. Another issue is that many hope that their relatives would change in the future and such actions will not be repeated, and it is especially true for Sarty. Another aspect that should not be overlooked is that he had experience with a court system, and it is entirely possible that it has affected his sense of justice. He understood that judges may be manipulated, and such situation should not be viewed as acceptable. Individuals frequently have to deal with internal conflicts and it is not an easy task to choose which approach is the most reasonable in some cases.

Miles suggests that Sarty was stuck in a particular state and could not make the right decision. Moreover, the problem is that he needed a role model, but he did not see his father as an appropriate one because he despised such actions and behavior (Miles 154). He could not identify himself with this person, and he understood that something needs to be changed because the situation is getting much more complicated every single time. Another core aspect that should not be overlooked is that the central character’s mother has tried to calm down her husband, but her attempts were not successful. Sarty understands that she is hurt by such actions, and she has been traumatized. Moreover, he acknowledges the fact that this situation needs to be addressed because health and well-being of his mother are of utmost importance.

Moreover, the problem is that many parents take advantage of their children and their feelings. It is entirely possible that the father of the central character was not a bad person and was influenced by numerous external factors, but it is evident that he has broken laws and had to be punished. He had to go through several events that have changed him as a person. However, the approach that he has selected to resolve all the conflicts may not be described as reasonable. He thought that he has more power and control than other individuals, but such behavior is cowardly, and he did not want to be responsible for his actions.

Another aspect that should not be disregarded is that Sarty has looked at his father as a war hero, and it increases the boy’s level of trust in his decisions (Horton 97). The problem is that Abner had other motives other than protecting his country, and have participated only because of the profits. Furthermore, he understands that such individuals should be respected, and it leads to severe consequences. The father controls his family, and no one is capable of arguing with him. On the other hand, it is possible to state that this character had several redeeming qualities.

For instance, he understands that a class revolution is necessary. He does not respect people that use others to gain profits. However, the problem is that his way of dealing with such situations may not be viewed as the most efficient, and it hurts him and his family. He was aware of the fact that barns are vital for farmers but still burned them without any regrets because it was a way for him to express his anger. Also, it is necessary to note that Abner understood that court system was not fair in some cases at that time, and he wanted to get sympathy from judges by using his son.

Moreover, he frequently uses intimidation and violence to ensure that he is protected from possible harm. It is true that every single member of the family has a set of responsibilities over others, but several exceptions should not be overlooked. A need to protect close ones is a natural reaction, but our society has evolved over the years, and ethical norms have an enormous influence on all the areas.

Yaeger suggests that such acts may seem questionable and chaotic from the perspective of a young child, and he may not understand the reasoning behind them. Moreover, it is paramount to mention that it was all caused by jealousy and hatred, and it is possible to state that the boy’s father was obsessed with barn burning and would not imagine his life without it (Yaeger 53). The problem is that he knew that his son and family are in danger, and he must be careful, but his actions were justified in his mind, and he did not think about consequences of such offenses.

It is necessary to understand that he believes that he has the right to act this way and views law system as a burden that limits him and his opportunities for crime. Also, Tebbetts states that Sarty does not have a desire to behave like this, and the influence of his father is the only factor that leads to such decisions. For instance, he does not want to confront the boy who disrespects his father, but he thinks that he must do it because such actions are expected from him (Tebbetts 81). Moreover, it is necessary to note that this perspective is reasonable because many people are too worried about opinions of others, and it is especially true when it comes to discussions of their families.

It is imperative to mention that the role of blood is a theme that can be seen throughout the whole work. For instance, the central character senses the presence of his blood in the store, and it indicates that he understands that a particular bond between him and his father exists. Also, Abner tells the son that he should do everything that he is capable of to protect his close ones if he wants to be treated the same way. It is important to note that such words could have an enormous impact on a young boy, and it is entirely possible that he started to question his decisions at that point.

The main character understands that it is not possible to turn back at the end of the story, and his life is going to change significantly. Moreover, it is evident that moral values were of utmost importance in the mind of this young boy, and he realized that someone had to do the right thing at some point. Another aspect that is worth noting is that the young boy was incredibly smart for his years, and it is possible to state that he was much more mature than his father. Abner had to understand that there is nothing positive about his actions, and the most appropriate thing to do was to accept his mistakes.

However, it is evident that it could not be done because of his pride. It is also necessary to mention that the fact that he has lost a father also had an impact on the character. It is a reasonable reaction to mourn in such cases, but it is necessary to understand that Sarty had a particular sense of relief. He no longer had to hide something, and he realized that his father would not cause any more problems and harm to other people. Weatherby suggests that a torn sleeve is symbolic in this work, and it signifies that the central character has gotten rid of the old blood.

It can be viewed as a particular form of betrayal, but a young boy did not understand why he had to suffer because of his roots. Moreover, it is something that nobody is capable of choosing, and no one should be punished for the rest of their lives because of their relatives (Weatherby 85). “He did not look back” is one of defining lines (Faulkner 13). It signifies that the central character does not regret anything, and he understands that he made the right decision. He still felt guilty because he has lied about actions of his father on numerous occasions, but he is determined to change for the better.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is evident that the author wanted to draw attention to this significant problem that is frequently overlooked. The story shows that the behavior shown by central character’s father is destructive, and it affects every single individual that surrounds him. It is necessary to understand that relationships between parents and children are complicated most of the time, but adults must have an understanding of the fact that their actions have an enormous impact on young people. Moreover, they should not have to deal with such difficult decisions and choices at such young age.

Every individual in modern society must understand that laws should be valued above everything else because they have been developed to protect the citizens from possible harm. The issue is that many people still make false statements in the court, and it is especially problematic in countries that are less developed. Overall, this is an outstanding story that needs to be studied much more because it is well-written and the author’s attention to details is truly fascinating.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. Collected stories of William Faulkner. New York, NY: Random House, 1950. Print.

Horton, Merrill. Modern American Literature: New Approaches, Volume 55: Hunting the Sun : Faulkner’s Appropriations of Balzac’s Writings. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, 2010. ProQuest ebrary.

Miles, Caroline. “Little Men in Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and the Reivers.” The Faulkner Journal 15.1 (2000): 151-168. ProQuest. Web. 27 February 2016.

Tebbetts, Terrell L. “”I’m the Man Here”: Go Down, Moses, and Masculine Identity.” Faulkner and Postmodernism. Ed. John N. Duvall, and Ann J. Abadie. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002. 81-94. ProQuest ebrary.

Yaeger, Patricia. “Dematerializing Culture: Faulkner’s Trash Aesthetic.” Faulkner and Material Culture. Ed. Joseph R. Urgo, and Ann J. Abadie. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. 48-67. ProQuest ebrary.

Weatherby, H. L. “Faulkner’s Wilderness.” Place in American Fiction. Ed. H. Weatherby, and George Core. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2005. 85-96. ProQuest ebrary.

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