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Barn Burning: Sarty's Transformation Into AdulthoodIn William Faulkner's story, 'Barn Burning', we find a young man whostruggles with the relationship he has with his father. We see Sarty, the youngman, develop into an adult while dealing with the many crude actions and ways ofAbner, his father. We see Sarty as a puzzled youth who faces the questions offaithfulness to his father or faithfulness to himself and the society he livesin. His struggle dealing with the reactions which are caused by his father'sacts result in him thinking more for himself as the story progresses. Faulkneruses many instances to display the developing of Sarty's conscience as the themeof the story "Barn Burning." Three instances in which we can see the developingof a conscience in the story are the ways that Sarty compliments and admires hisfather, the language he uses when describing his father, and the way he obeyshis father throughout the story.
The first instance in which we can see a transition from childhood toadulthood in Sarty's life is in the way he compliments his father. Sartyadmires his father very much and wishes that things could change for the betterthroughout the story. At the beginning of the story he speaks of how hisfathers '..wolflike independence..'(145) causes his family to depend on almostno one. He believes that they live on their own because of his fathers drivefor survival. When Sarty mentions the way his father commands his sisters toclean a rug with force '..though never raising his voice..'(148), it shows howhe sees his father as strict, but not overly demanding.
He seems to begin tofeel dissent towards his father for the way he exercises his authority in thehousehold. As we near the end of the story, Sarty's compliments become sparseand have a different tone surrounding them. After running from the burning barn,he spoke of his dad in an almost heroic sense. He wanted everyone to rememberhis dad as a brave man, "He was in the war."(154) and should be known for it,not burning barns. He seems to care about, but not condone his father and hisactions.
Another instance where we see a transition is in the language he useswhen describing his father. At the beginning of the story he spoke as a childwatching and looking at the things around him. He said that an enemy of hisfathers was '..our enemy..'(147) and spoke with the loyalty of a lamb, neverknowing that it could stray from the flock. Near the middle of the story, wecan see the tone of his speech change. Sarty shows change when he asks hisfather if he '..want[s] to ride now?'(149) when they are leaving deSpain'shouse. He seems to have the courage to ask his dad certain things, not fearingthe consequences.
At the end of the story, the language Sarty uses becomesclearer and more independent. As he runs from the deSpain's house, like a child,he cries for Abner saying, 'Pap! Pap!'(154), but when he stops and recalls theevent, he says, like an adult, 'Father! Father!'(154). He shows his developmentthrough these examples of his speech. The last instance where he shows us that he is developing a conscienceis in the way he obeys his father. Sarty seems to do anything his father saysat the begging of the story.
When Sarty is called to stand at his fathers trial,he says that his father '..aims for me to lie and I will have to do hit.'(144).He is totally loyal at the beginning of the story, but as the tale progresses,we see his obedience weaken. After the cleaning of the rug, we see Sarty'sfather ask if he has '..put the cutter [horse] back in the straitstock..'(150) and we find that Sarty disobeys his father for the first timewhen he says 'No sir.'(150). He begins to have a say in things in a slight way.But near the end of the story, his mind totally decides for itself when he wastold to stay at home. He told his mother to 'Lemme go.'(153). He seemswilling to go to any length to disobey his father for the purpose of servingjustice now.After reading about Faulkner's transitional phases of the compliments,speech, and loyalty of Sarty, we can see the change from childhood to adulthoodor from a person of innocence into a person with a conscience in Sarty.Faulkner gradually develops Sarty into a man of his own deeds throughout thestory.
Sarty has to finally realize that blood is not always thicker than water.Faulkner's story symbolizes the way in which society works today. If oneindividual is doing wrong, you must overlook the relationship you have with himand look at the wrong deeds he is doing. If you happen to face your fears andset strait the wrong, in the end, the good will always prevail.
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