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Setting and Theme in Barn Burning Essay

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All stories, as all individuals, are embedded in a context or setting: a time, a place, and a culture. In fact, characters and their relationship to others are better understood in a specific context of time, place and atmosphere, as they relate to a proposed theme or central point of a story. Abner is revealed as a sadistic character who confronts his son with the choice of keeping his loyal ties to the family or parting for a life on his own with no familial support. Sarty is Abner's son, a young boy torn by the words of his father and the innate senses of his heart. Sarty is challenged by an internal conflict, he wants to disobey his father, yet he knows that if he leaves he will have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. We will take a look at the setting, specifically the era in which William Faulkner's "Barn Burning" took place. The circumstances surrounding Abner's barn burning also play a crucial role in finding the underlying message or the theme seeing as how it is not always the obligation of an individual to support another family member when his or her choices do not morally coincide with one's own ethical choices.

Setting plays a vital part in establishing the background for the events that take place in any piece of literature. "Barn Burning" was set in the 1930's, a time when the Great Depression produced great social and economic problems among the people of the era. The economy was not stable. National wealth was not spread evenly. Instead, most of the money was in the hands of the wealthy. Lowly farmers like Abner were forced to grow crops as a source of food during this time of unemployment and overpriced goods. Abner had a difficult time providing for his large family, which was why he went abo...


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... Sarty could never again return home.

Richard Bach put it best when he said, "The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life," which represents Sarty's deviance from his father's wishes. Although everyone was affected by the Great Depression, they did not have to live like savages. Abner could have farmed a larger variety of crop and established a reputable name for himself to become one of the leading salesmen of the area. Sarty was conflicted with keeping his loyalty to his blood ties or leaving. Sarty made an intelligent choice of disobeying his father and abandoning his family for a legitimate life on his own, one in which he did not have to steal, destroy, or lie to live a meager life. Sarty probably left in hopes of some day becoming like Major de Spain, a man of intelligence and wealth.



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