Professor Debra Germany
14 November 2012
In “Barn Burning”, a short story by William Faulkner, a boy finds that he can no longer be governed by his father’s ideas and tries to prevent his father from doing further harm, and leaves his family in the process. Sarty Snopes desire is to break away from the moral deficiency of his family life and live life with some resemblance of normalcy even at the expense of never seeing his family again. A growing body of evidence, suggest that humans have a moral sense from the very start of life and family does not instill this moral compass from the very start of life. His father was a man of little or no education who had developed an attitude in life of catering to no one but himself even at the expense of his family. The story begins with Mr. Snopes on trial for burning a neighbor’s barn after sending a black man over for his hog and actually warning the man that hay and wood burn. Shortly afterwards the neighbor’s barn burned and the story begins in a court of the Justice of the Peace. Sarty, is remembering all this and the details of the court room which was actually a storeroom in a grocery store. The man whose barn was burned asks that the boy testify and the judge is hesitant as this was not proper protocol in that time. The man says the boy does not have to testify and the case is dismissed due to lack of witnesses. The boy says he would have had to tell the truth had he been forced to testify even though he has a very real fear of his father. The father actually hits the boy who had defended the family honor by fighting someone in the crowd calling them barn burners. The father knows the
boy would have testified and he tells him that they have to stand together against the world. This is obviously a common occurrence in the young mans life and always ends up the same, they are told to move on and never come back. They all gather in their wagon and leave, the wife, her twin sister, his two sisters, and his older brother. They all are afraid of the father and dare not question him or his authority.
The central theme of the story begins with the last move when the family moves onto property owned by a Major De Spain and take up residence in a tenant farm house belonging to the major. The boy and the father ride over to the Majors house which is larger than anything the boy had seen in his life he compared the house to the courthouse. As they approach the door the father steps in a large pile of horse manure. The black man at the door tells the father to wipe his feet before coming in and also announces that Major De Spain is not home. The father forces the door open and enters the home, leaving a path of mud on the rug which turns out to be an expensive rug from France.
When the Major returns home and discovers the condition of the carpet he rolls it up and takes it to the Snopes residence where he instructs the father to clean it and return it as it was. The father makes the boys and the two sisters, clean the rug and then returns it to the Major. The Major tells Mr. Snopes that he will have to pay twenty bushels out of his labor to pay for the rug. Mr. Snopes takes the Major to court to have his payment overturned. Mr. Snopes thinking that washing it would be sufficient finds out that it is not. The judge shows some leniency reducing the payment to ten bushels of corn and five dollars.
The father is not happy with this and decides once again to burn the Majors barn as he orders his son to get the kerosene against his wife’s wishes who says at least send a black man again like you did before. The young boy who by now has decided in his heart that this cannot go
on and is restrained by his mother even though the father wants to physically tie him to his bed so he cant warn the Major. The father by now has headed towards the...
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