Barn Burning Analysis

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Thomas Bertonneau writes in “An Overview of ‘Barn Burning,’ “the price of wisdom is suffering, but the price of freedom, of whatever kind, is wisdom. . .” (Bertonneau 15). Though “Barn Burning” appears to be a strange story with little value at first glance, it actually withholds a great deal of significance. In fact, the story’s oddities contribute to its literary value when one carefully scrutinizes them. The grotesque elements create mystery, leading an audience to seek for a hidden meaning. William Faulkner designed the story in a way that forces readers to search for an answer, rather than blatantly displaying said answer. The main theme, literary device, and style of “Barn Burning” all come together to create not just a simple, easily…show more content…
In “Barn Burning,” the theme of loyalty and betrayal contribute greatly to the main conflict of the short story. Though this theme dominates throughout the story, it goes hand-in-hand with the theme of morality. With immense pressure from his father, Sarty struggles to determine the role that loyalty to family plays in morality. In Sarty’s situation, there are a few factors delaying his decision: his father’s abuse and disappointment in him in general. In “Barn Burning” William Faulkner writes, “‘You would have told him.’ He didn’t answer. His father struck him with the flat of his hand on the side of his head…” (Faulkner 4). Sarty wishes to reveal the truth to others, but there is always the threat of Abner’s abuse and disappointment looming over him. In reality, the physical abuse affects Sarty less than his constant fear of not living up to Abner’s expectations, which reveals plenty about Sarty’s personality. Abner expects his son to stand wholeheartedly by his actions, right or wrong. He assumes that a blood relation entitles him to a lifetime of support, disregarding what his young son may be experiencing. In “Barn Burning” William Faulkner states, “he aims for…show more content…
Gothic and modern themes prevail in “Barn Burning.” Faulkner was born and raised in the South, and those origins play a large role in the content of “Barn Burning,” as the moral of the story revolves around change in the South. The early 1900’s was an era of innovation and newfound ideals, and life was changing drastically as a result. In Short Stories for Students Tim Akers and Jerry Moore state, “the new age seemed to represent a breakdown of the human spirit itself, seduced by the gewgaws of technology and the ease of undisciplined living” (Faulkner 11). In Abner, Faulkner displays grotesque characteristics such as an unhealthy desire to burn and a physical handicap from the war. This characteristic is much like Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Flannery O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own.” All of these short stories examine characters with handicaps and disturbing desires. Abner also personifies loss of traditional values in the South during the early 1900s, which ties to modernism. Faulkner used his writing to comment on the new era, and it is obvious that he was not fond of it due to his grotesque characterization of Abner. Faulkner describes Abner as almost inhuman, as he never feels any remorse for his behavior. In Short Stories for Students editors Tim Akers and Jerry Moore write, “Faulkner could even be called a reactionary - and in truth he was reacting, negatively, to
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