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A Literary Analysis Of "Barn Burning"

1037 words - 5 pages

At first glance, the story “Barn burning” seems just to be about a tyrannical father and a son who is in the grips of that tyranny. I think Faulkner explores at least one important philosophical question in this story were he asks at what point should a person make a choice between what his parent(s) and / or family believes and his own values?
The main character and protagonist in this story is a boy named Colonel Sartoris. In this story, Sarty is faced with the decision of either going along with the views and actions of his morally challenged father or asserting his own morality and individuality by running away and leaving his family and his pain behind.
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The inciting force takes place after Sarty and his family move to a house owned by a man named De Spain, under the assumption that they will cultivate De Spain’s farm and give him a portion of the crop. After the family moves into the house, Abner decides to have a word with De Spain, so he and Sarty make their way to De Spain’s house. In the book Short Story Criticism, Edmond Volpe states that “De Spain’s house is obviously an important symbol for Sarty because his immediate response to the site of the house is to compare it to a symbol of justice, the courthouse” (163). Along the walk, Abner

walks with such arrogance that he treads right through a pile of horse manure. In the next scene, the inciting force is established. In this scene, Abner proceeds to go into De Spain’s house and wipes his soiled feet all over De Spain’s expensive rug. In the book Short Story Criticism, Edmond Volpe states that “Ab does not discriminate between rich and poor. For him there are only two categories: ‘blood kin’ and ‘they,’ into which he clumps all the rest of mankind” (163). This attitude is also evident by the role that Abner played in the Civil War, in which he had stolen from both sides. He is just out for his own vindication, and he does not care if he hurts “they”.
The rising action starts after the inciting force. Abner’s continuing contempt for “they”, in this case, De Spain, is no less evident by the fact that after De Spain confronts Abner with the demand for having his rug cleaned and returned to him, Abner ruins the rug by rubbing a hole through it with a rock. The result of Abner’s actions is a trial in which Abner is ordered...

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