William Faulkner’s Barn Burning: Sarty’s grown Essay

February 9, 2022 by Essay Writer

Updated: Apr 22nd, 2019

William Faulkner’s story Barn Burning is one of the best stories that exhibit initiation of characters. An in-depth analysis on the story portrays Sarty as the main character and the protagonist of the story. The character is a son to a man who burns barns in their neighborhood. Sarty is portrayed as one who undergoes initiation as he does not agree to the activities of his father, which are absurd to some extent.

As Sarty is forced to take part in burning of barns, he comes to understand that the act is wrong. Considering that discerning wrong from right is a virtue in the society, Sarty is victimized by his father for not agreeing with his ideologies. His constant observations of his fathers activities transform him psychologically to a hero as can be evidenced in the story.

Sarty comes to understand that the world can be made a better place by little actions that are well intended. For example, Sarty feels that he cannot keep hiding from the law and the wrath of his neighbors in the rest of his life. By preventing the burning of the barn of de Spain, Sarty emerges as a hero, who is fully transformed to adulthood.

Sarty constantly wrestles with the idea that he is supposed to help his father or not. At some point, Sarty comes to understand that there are worse people in the world than his father. This experience nearly makes him sympathize and become his fathers’ accomplice. To this extent, it is now evident that the character experienced both internal and interpersonal conflict.

He was torn between doing the right thing, but again wanted to feel part of the family by doing the wrong thing. The external factor, especially a new understanding of the world, renders Sarty to experience an external conflict. The continuity of these experiences and an urge to do the right thing makes him experience the adult world in unexpected way. The author depicts him as the most responsible person in the story, just like an adult.

Sarty, in William Faulkner’s Barn Burning, has a tentative initiation. The experience that the character undergoes reveals how he almost becomes a responsible and mature adult. Nevertheless, the experiences are but a stepping stone to maturity. According to the author, Sarty reaches maturity threshold while still young, but does not necessarily become an adult.

Sarty comes of age to realize that barn burning is not a moral thing to do. In fact, he loathes at the idea of his father; Abner telling and forcing him to take part in burning of barns. Sarty grapples with the idea of how the society will view these heinous ideas. Sarty cannot live with the guilt that adults can make other people suffer.

He sees such as wrong intention to other people. Sarty believes that it his civic duty to see into it that other people and the general community are protected. This is well evidenced when he informs de Spain that his barn is about to be burnt.

His forewarning of an enemy of his father is an example of how people can be responsible of other irrespective of their differences. Although Sarty does not necessarily like de Spain after seeing how he downgrades his father, he still thinks that his barn should not be burnt. He cannot fathom and live with such guilt.

The respect that Sarty gives to the legal system at his age is impeccable. At the age of ten, the young boy thinks that the legal system should be accorded the right respect and dignity. This is well elaborated when he likens de Spain mansion to the courthouse (Faulkner 41). Sarty also expects that adults should respect the legal systems, especially the courthouses.

At his dismay, Abner is all set to set ablaze the de Spain’s mansion. Although, Sarty may not have enough knowledge of the courthouse or the legal system, he seems to understand that the morality of the society is sometimes decided by the legal faction. In this aspect, Sarty even thinks that the sight of the mansion would compel his father not to torch it.

According to Sarty, the mansion represents the aspect of “peace and dignity” (Faulkner 41). The understanding of Sarty’s ideas are exhibited by the author as those of a naive young person, who is misinformed on activities that happen in society or in the realm of adulthood.

Although, Sarty transformation as a noble character is well portrayed, the character is not exceptional of some bias. This can be evidenced in his contemplating to lie. As a matter of fact, his father punishes him by hitting him. The character is taught that loyalty is important in family. In so doing, Sarty perceives his father’s enemies as his enemies too.

For example, his perception on Justice and Harris is that of unwelcome enemy. At some point, Sarty calls them out “enemy! enemy!” (Faulkner 10). this exactly reveals that his father’s action also affect the son.

On the same, Sarty tries to agree with his father ideas, after developing a bad attitude against de Spain. Interestingly, de Spain turns out to be a more horrible character than his father. He undermines other people and this almost makes Sarty agree with his father that such individuals should be punished.

In conclusion, Sarty’s tentative initiation becomes rife when he almost becomes his father’s accomplice. At one point, Sarty agrees to do what his father asks. He agrees to go for the burning oil that his father asks for. However, it is during this instant that his internal conflicts become evinced. Sarty struggles with the thought of doing the heinous act and running for the rest of his life.

He decides not to live this kind of life again. Sarty understands that it is a difficult decision to make, considering he is minor who fully depends on his parents support. At one point, Sarty imagines fleeing from his parents and from the life of burn burning. The character envisions himself to not “ever see Abner’s face again” (89).

At twist of turns and difficult decision making, he feels that “he cannot run away” (89). Nevertheless, the author finally depicts the young character as outstanding, when he finally makes a major decision. Sarty seems to ensure that his presence is felt at last and this is by running away from his family.

Although, the author does not depict the character as one who can become responsible of his life, he applauds the character for the decision of running away. Sarty has the feeling of “the terrible handicap of being young” (Faulkner 40) in a dangerous world. In fact, the author knows that Sarty’s decision will have hard repercussions at the end. Sarty life still remains vulnerable considering his age and love and care he is supposed to get from his parents.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. Barn Burning. Vancouver: Paperblank Book, 1996. Print.

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