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"Barn Burning and Sarty's Choice" Essay

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William Faulkner's "Barn Burning" contains a character, Sarty, whose individual maturity ultimately initiates a more positive lifestyle than what is provided by his family. Sarty faces much drama throughout the entire short story which builds his personal maturity and allows him to truly evaluate the negative and positive aspects of his life. The dramatic conflict is between Sarty and his father, Abner Snopes, an older man who can be characterized as a 19th century terrorist who has a keen predilection for burning barns.

Beginning the short story one realizes Sarty can be characterized as a young shy boy who seems to be intimidated by his father. Immediately following Abner's first barn burning of the story, Sarty is convinced that his father's malignant actions are profoundly immoral, but he is also conscious that opposing Abner's actions would be a sense of betrayal. Sarty's belief in these two perspectives leads to his internal conflict throughout the entire short story; one choice commits acts of betrayal while the other leads to the participation in evil. Sarty's intimidation of his father combined with his internal conflict is demonstrated at the beginning of the story when he thought to himself "Enemy! Enemy!"(483) as the justice was contemplating interrogating Sarty. This thought leads the reader to believe that Abner Snopes has molded Sarty to act as a faithful family member, and not to declare any of Abner's negative actions. Sarty must keep himself from exclaiming the true actions of his father, because he knows the degree of their immorality.

Throughout the middle of the short story, Sarty is involved in a couple dramatic events that lead to his ultimate decision. Following the trial, Sarty's wicked fa...


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...ght shows all the maturity he gained throughout the story. He completely realizes the horrors of his family, and has the personal ability through the maturity he gained to make the decision to leave the family. This maturity allows Sarty to "not look back" (494) and neglect all feelings of his family and their evil.

Sarty is confronted with challenges and extreme internal conflict throughout this entire short story. Dramatic events within the family eventually allow Sarty to make the best decision of his life, choosing good over evil. "Barn Burning" proves as an initiation story for Sarty, because of the new maturity he gains through the evil experiences he has with his family.

Works Citied

Faulkner, William. "Barn Burning." The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed.

Michael Meyer. 7th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. 483-494.


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