Sarty Snope’s predicament in William Faulkner’s story Barn Burning
Choices We Have to Make
Sarty Snopes in William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” is a prime example of someone who had to choose between two paths. He could stay with his family, his blood, which he knew was wrong or take the right path but be on his own. At first Sarty tries and wants to stay with his father but realizes that his father will never change. Sarty chooses to escape his family forever. His father, Abner, has done so much damage in Sarty’s life he will never turn back.
At the beginning of the book we learn that Sarty is watching a trial case. “He could not see the table where the Justice sat and before which his farther and his father’s enemy (our enemy he thought in the despair; ourn! mine and hisn both! He’s my farther!).” (3) At this point in time Sarty is on his father’s side. In the opening paragraph, we can see that Sarty is still a young boy, “He could not see the table.” (3) He is still too young to really understand what’s going on. He thinks that since family is blood, he needs to be on their side no matter what. When he says “our enemy…. mine and hisn both” (3) is meant to show that right now Sarty considers his father’s enemies his enemies as well because they are family.
Sarty begins to talk about how he and his family hop from place to place going where ever his farther wants to go. “He did not ever know where they were going. None of them ever did or ever asked…Likely his farther had already arranged to make a crop on another farm before he… Again he had to stop himself. He (the father) always did.” (7) We can see Sarty knowing that what his father is doing is wrong. He knows everywhere they go his father will burn down the owners barn before they leave. “before he…” (7) here he hesitates, not wanting to say before he burns down a barn. This hints that Sarty does not want to truly believe the kind of man his father is and it hurts him to say what his father does.
Sarty and his family deiced to find a place to sleep for the night on their way to another house. There are many examples that show how the Snopes family acts that encourages Sarty to want to leave his family. “The nights were still cool and they had a fire against it, of a rail lifted from a nearby fence and cut into lengths a small fire.” (7) Instead of picking up branches that had fallen from the trees they choose to damage someone else’s property by using a fence rail to build a fire. The next line goes into more detail to describe and show Abner’s character. “Small fire, neat, niggard almost, a shrewd fire: such fires were his father’s habit” (7) this shows Abner’s character, always having to have his way and not caring about anyone else around him. Even though it was a cold night, Abner only builds a small fire, he refuses to build a large fire. This may be because when Abner was hiding during the war he always built small fires so no one would find him and since he is a character that is set in his ways and refuses to change he continues to build small fires. Next “Older, the boy might have remarked this and wondered why not a big one” (7) This shows that once again Sarty is questioning his father’s judgment, he wants to know why his farther will not build a bigger fire for his family especially since he is burning someone else’s property.
Later on that night Abner hits Sarty. “You were fixing to tell them. You would have told him. He didn’t answer. His father struck him with the flat of his hand on the side of the head, hard but without heat, exactly as he would strike either of them with any stick in order to kill a horse fly, his voice still without heat or anger: You’re getting to be a man. You got to learn. You got to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you.” (8) Abner gets mad at Sarty because he thinks Sarty would have told in court what he knew. Sarty could tell that his farther meant no harm because he said, “struck him with the flat of his hand… but without heat.” (8) Abner wanted to get his point across but still show Sarty that he loved him. He hit Sarty like he hits a fly off someone, hard enough to kill the fly but light enough to not hurt the person. He then goes on to say that it is time for Sarty to grow up and become a man. He says “You got to learn. You got to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you.” (8) This is what makes Sarty think about why he should stay with his family. Since family is blood they can and will protect you but if you leave and don’t protect them they won’t protect you. But later on Abner gives Sarty more reasons on why he should leave.
When they arrived at the house and were walking in, there was a fresh pile of horse dropping in the middle of the drive. Abner stepped directly on them and Sarty noticed what he had done. “the stiff foot come squarely down in a pile…his father could have avoided by a simple change of stride” (10) When they walk in Sarty’s father steps harder than one needs to while walking. He gets the horse dropping all over one of the rugs in the house. Sarty seems disappointed in his father for ruining the rug. Major de Spain tells Abner that he will have to pay for the rug by taking away twenty corn bushels. Abner refuses and as always plans to burn Major de Spain’s barn down to get back at him. In the end, Abner succeeds in burning down Major de Spain’s barn. This is when Sarty makes his final choice and decides to leave his family for good.
Sarty was sitting at the top of a hill watching Major de Spain’s barn burn. He hears three shots and cries “Pap! Pap! Running again before he knew he had begun to run” (24) Even though he knows his father is no good he still cares for him and wants to rush to see if he is okay after he hears the shots but then he stops. We can assume that Abner might be dead now. To Sarty his father is dead no matter what, if he is not actually dead he is still dead to Sarty. Sarty talks about his father in past tense meaning to him his father is dead. “Father. My father, he thought. He was brave! He cried suddenly aloud but not loud, no more than a whisper: He was! He was in the war! He was in Colonel Satoris cav’ry!” (24) Sarty loved his father but was ready to let go and take his own path.
“He went on down the hill, toward the dark woods within which the liquid silver voices of the birds called unceasing the rapid and urgent beating of the urgent and quiring heart of the late spring night. He did not look back.” (25) After many attempts at trying to consider to stay with his family, Abner had done too much damage for Sarty to ever forgive him. He did not want to grow up and turn into his father so he made the right choice, and left.
William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” shows how even though family is your blood sometimes people still need to look past the blood and see the bigger picture. Sometimes even though it’s the right choice it can be a hard choice to make. Faulkner shows the choices people have to make every day through Sarty.
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