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Barn Burning | Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 876 words Published: 16th May 2017

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The story “Barn Burning” is an example of coming of age story because the coming of age story entails the initiation of an individual into an enhanced level of self awareness (“Coming of Age”,29); in other words, coming of age story means that a person realizes something is wrong an tries to change it . By the end of the story Sarty feels loss and rebirth by loosing his family but gaining manhood, this is where he enters the level of self awareness. Sarty’s attitude changes because he starts growing apart from his father and his family; he also comprehends the big difference between what is right and wrong, and this realization brings Sarty to a higher sense of self awareness.

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There are accounts in this story where Sarty does not agree with his father’s actions, but he does not allow himself to think about them. Sarty seems tired of his family moving cities each time his father does something bad; Sarty says to himself, “maybe he’s done satisfied now, now that he has… stopping himself, not to say it aloud even to himself”(Faulkner 1957). Sarty still believes that his father will stop burning barns; he wants his father to really know what he is doing and that is wrong. Sarty has faith that his father would mature into a more reasonable person by thinking before acting. Abner’s actions make Sarty react and realize his father is doing wrong and he is not doing much about it because he is too close to his family and needs to be loyal to them. Sarty starts to mature when he realize that his father is doing wrong, and he decides he wants to do the right thing. For example when he decides to escape, he goes against his father by warning the Negro about his father wanting to burn the barn, despite what might happen to his father and brother. We see Sarty running, “knowing it was too late yet still running even after he heard the shot and, an instant later, two shots, pausing now without knowing he had ceased to run, crying Pap! Pap” (Faulkner 1967). Sarty starts to mature and grow up by getting a sense of what his father was doing, he was tired of all his father’s actions and he decided to do something about it, Sarty knew that going against his family was wrong but he decided to do the right thing.

Sarty does everything his father tells him to do without saying a word because if he doesn’t Abner might beat him. Sarty’s father says, “You got to learn to stick to your blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you” (Faulkner 1958). These words were stuck into Sarty’s naive mind many times; that might be the reason why he always defends his father and does not betray him. He knows that lying is wrong, but he has not yet separated from his father, and knows that being silent in the courtroom would help his father. For example, while in the courtroom Sarty has to keep quiet in order to save his father because Sarty knows what his father has done, in the story his father says ” ‘You were fixing to tell them’ … .He didn’t answer. His father struck him with the flat of his hand on the side of the head, hard but without heat ….”(Faulkner 1958). At this point where most children would hesitate and tell everything, Sarty didn’t. He face the trial like a man rather than a boy by the way he behaved in the courtroom and taking things like a real man should.

Throughout the story we see Sarty’s loyalty to be debatable. For example, outside the courtroom when Sarty hears some boys calling his father a barn burner, Sarty goes into his father’s defense, getting into a fight in which he sheds his own blood to protect his father’s good name . Sarty also provides the oil to burn the de Spain’s barn after the little rug incident; Sarty says, “he won’t get no the bushels neither. He won’t get one …” (Faulkner 1964). These two examples show how Sarty’s loyalty towards his father seems to change because of his naive little mind; and he does not know what to do. Sarty is not sure if he should stick to his blood or not. In the end he decides to do the right thing and ends up betraying his father and family and runs away. This coming of age story shows us how an individual, in this case young Sarty, “develops an enhanced level of self awareness that is either an end in itself or the psychological and emotional orientation necessary for indoctrination into the surroundings” (“Coming of Age” 29). In simple words, Sarty has courage and betrays the ones he love in order to do what is right, despite what his father says. This is a thing that not too many people do because of fear. Sarty overcomes that he went against his own blood, and do what is right; this makes the story a coming of age story.

Work Cited

Faulkner, William. “Barn Burning” The Norton Anthology: American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym.

7th ed. New York. 1955-1967. Print.

“The Coming-of-Age Story.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena Krostovic. Vol. 130. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning,2010. 29-146. Print.


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