Monday, October 8, 2012

Motivation and Conflict in Faulkner's "Barn Burning"

Faulkner's "Barn Burning" tells the story of the young Sartoris, who lives under his controlling and angry father, Abner. Abner is portrayed as an overall deceitful and desperate person, doing whatever he can to get by and not caring who he hurts in the process. One of the best characterization examples Faulkner provides us with is that  Abner was a mercenary in the Civil War, not fighting for the Confederates as he should have been, as a Southerner. He stole from both sides, and didn't care about what he was fighting for at all. Ironically, Abner was shot in the war by a Confederate.

The major conflict in "Barn Burning" deals with Abner's rage. He seems to be figure of complete power and force, as we are reading through Sartoris's eyes. He is as uncontrollable as the fire he eventually ignites to DeSpain's barn. Sartoris is caught between right and wrong, knowing the difference between the two, but kept in line with what his Father insists. This creates the conflict Sartoris has against himself, torn between the doing the right thing and keeping in line with his family. Sartoris also goes against his Father, being ruled by an iron fist and forced into submission. I would say that Sartoris  is influenced heavily by his Father, as all young children are, and feels a sense of loyalty through family lines. The greatest role model a child has is the same gender parent. His Father's influence seems  pressing only while Sartoris is surrounded by him, being punished by him, or speaking with him, however, when Sartoris is free from his Father, he breaks into the person who I think he really is, the boy who fantasizes about running away to avoid persecution and evil.

While Sartoris is sitting in the back of the store, surrounded by other people and away from his Father, that is when Sartoris plans to speak on the harm his Father has done. I think Sartoris is young and confused as to whether doing the right thing means telling the truth or sticking with his Father. I think when he plans to speak on what really happened, Sartoris is absolutely justified in going against his Father. Just because Snopes is the caretaker to Sartoris does not mean that Sartoris has to lie on his behalf.

Abner and Sartoris do share one similarity which leads to a common theme: rebelling against what appears evil and rebelling for that sole reason. Abner hates the rich, as he is struggling to get by. That is his main motivation to burn the barn, a symbol of wealth and DeSpain's privileged livelihood. Sartoris, in return, rebels against his Father, by telling DeSpain what his Father has done, which leads to Abner's death. Sartoris seems very upset after this happens, standing up and proclaiming that his father was a good man. However, the story ends with Sartoris walking away, describing his stiff leg, as his father had, but how "walking would cure it". Leaving this toxic situation and family will allows Sartoris to become a man different than his father.

1 comment:

  1. I will know to call on you when we read this story in conjunction with As I Lay Dying