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Running head: barn burning 1

Understanding the Theme of Barn Burning

Daniel P Gagnon
Excelsior College

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Understanding the Theme of Barn Burning
In the story Barn Burning Sarty battles with the fact that his father is evil but wants
loyalty of all hid family members. Sarty feels he should be loyal to what he feel is right and
believes his father should pay for what he has done in order for him to stop his evil ways. Sarty
has to choose loyalty to family or loyalty to what is right and turn his father in to the authorities.
In this story Sartys thoughts convey how he is torn between his loyalties to his father and
doing what he thinks is the right thing to do. The story starts with Snopes being accused of a
Barn Burning. This is where we find out about Snopes youngest son, Colonel Sartoris Snopes,
struggle to support his dads problem with being a pyromaniac and Sartys sense of right and
wrong when he tells his father that he was going to tell the truth to the judge that his father set
the barn on fire. This is where Snopes lets his son know that he needs to be loyal to his family by
saying You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain't going to have any blood to stick
to you. Do you think either of them, any man there this morning, would (Faulkner, 1938)? This
is the essence of the main theme of the story which why Faulkner adds this dialogue. The story
continues with the Snopes family finding their new home which Abner Snopes, Sartys father,
obtained with a contract which Abner has to fulfil with harvesting the land. Trouble finds Abner
when he enters his employers home after stepping in horse manure and when told he needs to
pay for the rug with some of his crop he takes him to court. When Abner loses his court case he
resorts to his pyro ways and collects lamp oil which he uses to burn another barn down.
Another moment when Sartys loyalty is tested is during the second trial when Abner is
asked about the rug by the judge but in his rush to defend his father and show his loyalty to his
father he blurts out "He ain't done it! fie ain't burnt . . (Faulkner, 1938)! This statement shows
Sartys desire to defend his father but his sense of what is right getting in the way.

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The climactic ending of this story is when Abner shows Sarty that he is incapable of
changing who he is, an evil man, and he knows he is going to burn Major de Spains barn down.
In order to keep Sarty from alerting Major de Spain shows that his father doesnt trust him to be
loyal to the family so he grabs him up and tells Sartys mother to hold him while he finishes
burning the barn. Sartys sense of right finally wins out in the end as he escapes his mothers
clutches and he runs to warn Major de Spain but too late. The barn is already on fire and Sartys
sense of right is leading him away from wrong.
This story shows the battle that goes on in Sartys mind and how right finally won out in
the end and how some people would rather do what is right that be a follower. He followed his
rather than his father and ended up on his own. Sartys father said it best when he told his son
You're getting to be a man. You got to learn (Faulkner, 1938). What his father didnt know was
that becoming a man meant following his heart.

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Faulkner, W. (1938). Barn burning: A story.
Barn Burning by William Faulkner. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2015, from