ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Conflicts Between Family Loyalty and Justice in William Faulkner’s Barn Burning

Updated on July 31, 2018

The short story Barn Burning, by William Faulkner, has been a well-known American short story since 1939. What influenced many readers was the conflict between Sarty (son) and Abner Snopes (father) which was to either honor thy family or honor thy justice system. Using detailed imagery through the words and mind of a 10-year-old boy (Sarty Snopes), Faulkner displays the struggle of a child becoming a man. Abner Snopes is an honorable and brave war hero in the eyes of his son Sarty, but he also has a temperamental issue seeking revenge by burning enemies’ barns. Sarty even cries about his father, “He was brave! He was! He was in the war! He was in Colonel Sartoris’ cav’ry” (Faulkner, 181)! Sarty has the choice to either remain loyal to his father or do the right thing by warning his father’s enemies of an upcoming “barn burning.”

Source

Sarty explains to readers through his thoughts and his spoken words throughout the story that he disagrees with his father’s actions. As a young boy Sarty does not know everything of the world and the reasoning behind it, which is how this conflict helps readers to gain a better understanding of him. In the beginning of the story, Sarty explains the sights, smells, and sounds inside the grocery store which is a temporary venue for a courtroom. Abner is on trial for burning a fellow man’s barn to the ground over a hog and how he refused to keep it contained. Of course Sarty’s father had no defense therefore the entire family was exiled from town. Upon leaving the courtroom Sarty portrays to readers exactly how he feels about moving again:

His two hulking sisters in their Sunday dresses and his mother and her sister in calico and sunbonnets were already in it, sitting on and among the sorry residue of the dozen and more movings which even the boy could remember—the battered stove, the broken beds and chairs, the clock inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which would not run, stopped at some fourteen minutes past two o'clock of a dead and forgotten day and time, which had been his mother's dowry. (Faulkner, 172)

This gives readers a better understanding of the inner turmoil that young Sarty is undergoing. He must uproot everything (once again) with his family moving to unknown areas because of revengeful actions from his father.

Source

Even though the Snopes family is exiled due to his father’s actions, Abner continues to drown his son with lectures of loyalty to family and honor. Consider the lecture Abner gave to his son after court was dismissed during the trial hearing of the first barn burning:

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 with 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? (Faulkner, 173)

Sarty wanted so much to inform his father that the townsfolk were merely seeking justice and truth, but fear of the strike from Abner’s hand he kept his thoughts in his mind. What kind of justice is burning down a man’s livestock and barn? After the civil war a farmer was considered an entrepreneur and invested everything in his livestock and barn.

During the mid-1800s, many settlers moved from the east and set out closer to the West and Southwest. This would then in turn create issues and violence when citizens had to vote on whether to be “free” or as a “slave”. “This became the most explosive issue in the nation, creating heated debate that led to violence in many parts of the country” (Gay, 8). From 1861-1865 the civil war was deterred from the survival of the Union or independence for the confederacy. Although this war was bravely fought on American soil, it also created destruction and conflicts for “middle-class” Americans. “Any war is followed by a time of difficult, painful adjustments” (King, 121).

Sarty displays maturity when he finally stands up for justice and truth by going against his father. Finally breaking free of his mother’s grasp, Sarty runs to the landowner’s home to warn him of his father’s evil-doings. He yells at the landowner de Spain, “De Spain! […]Barn” (Faulkner, 181)! Even after three gunshots were heard from the distance, Sarty refuses to see his father. As he ponders on a hilltop surrounded by conflicts of family, loyalty, and dishonor Sarty gains the courage to walk into the woods into adulthood. In the last sentence of the story Faulkner writes, “He did not look back” (Faulkner, 182). This leaves readers with several questions about Sarty and Abner. Did Abner get shot? Would Sarty return home? The reader can only assume based on his or her beliefs.

Source

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. "Barn Burning". Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia.12th ed.Boston: Pearson, 2013. 170-182. Print.

Gay, Martin & Kathlyn. “Civil War”. Brookfield, Connecticut: Twenty-First Century Books, 1995. Print

King, David. “American Heritage American Voices: Civil War and Reconstruction”. Hoboken, New Jersey. 2003. Print

The main character of the story is?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)