Barn Burning: Sarty\'s Transformation Into Adulthood


In William Faulkner\'s story, "Barn Burning", we find a young man who
struggles with the relationship he has with his father. We see Sarty, the young
man, develop into an adult while dealing with the many crude actions and ways of
Abner, his father. We see Sarty as a puzzled youth who faces the questions of
faithfulness to his father or faithfulness to himself and the society he lives
in. His struggle dealing with the reactions which are caused by his father\'s
acts result in him thinking more for himself as the story progresses. Faulkner
uses many instances to display the developing of Sarty\'s conscience as the theme
of the story “Barn Burning.” Three instances in which we can see the developing
of a conscience in the story are the ways that Sarty compliments and admires his
father, the language he uses when describing his father, and the way he obeys
his father throughout the story.
The first instance in which we can see a transition from childhood to
adulthood in Sarty\'s life is in the way he compliments his father. Sarty
admires his father very much and wishes that things could change for the better
throughout the story. At the beginning of the story he speaks of how his
fathers "...wolflike independence..."(145) causes his family to depend on almost
no one. He believes that they live on their own because of his fathers drive
for survival. When Sarty mentions the way his father commands his sisters to
clean a rug with force "...though never raising his voice..."(148), it shows how
he sees his father as strict, but not overly demanding. He seems to begin to
feel dissent towards his father for the way he exercises his authority in the
household. As we near the end of the story, Sarty\'s compliments become sparse
and 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 remember
his 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 his
actions.
Another instance where we see a transition is in the language he uses
when describing his father. At the beginning of the story he spoke as a child
watching and looking at the things around him. He said that an enemy of his
fathers was "...our enemy..."(147) and spoke with the loyalty of a lamb, never
knowing that it could stray from the flock. Near the middle of the story, we
can see the tone of his speech change. Sarty shows change when he asks his
father if he "...want[s] to ride now?"(149) when they are leaving deSpain\'s
house. He seems to have the courage to ask his dad certain things, not fearing
the consequences. At the end of the story, the language Sarty uses becomes
clearer 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 the
event, he says, like an adult, "Father! Father!"(154). He shows his development
through these examples of his speech.
The last instance where he shows us that he is developing a conscience
is in the way he obeys his father. Sarty seems to do anything his father says
at 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\'s
father ask if he has "...put the cutter [horse] back in the strait
stock..."(150) and we find that Sarty disobeys his father for the first time
when 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 was
told to stay at home. He told his mother to "Lemme go."(153). He seems
willing to go to any length to disobey his father for the purpose of serving
justice now.
After reading about Faulkner\'s transitional phases of the compliments,
speech, and loyalty of Sarty, we can see the change from childhood to adulthood
or from a person of innocence into a person with a conscience in Sarty.
Faulkner gradually