Transformation Into Adulthood

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
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