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Barn Burning

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A Man Becoming What does it mean to be a man? Is it a state dictated by society or the individual? The society of the forties had its definition, and though the authors William Faulkner and Richard Wright are writing two completely different stories, their topics are similar. In both Faulkner's "Barn Burning" and Wright' s The Man Who Was Almost a Man" there is a young man striving for manhood. One wishes to prove to the society around him that he is a man, the other is struggling for himself, though he may not understand that at the time. While both boys, Sarty and Dave, respectively, are given the same situations in life, only Sarty reaches the goal of his struggle, while Dave loses himself in the search, proving that in order to be a man, one must first surrender to their own authority, then society shall follow.

Sarty Snopes is a young boy torn by his loyalty and obedience to his father and his own sense of morality. Of course this leads to a major conflict in his heart and mind. All during the time he was growing up Sarty heard from his father, "You gotta stick to your own blood or you ain't going to have any blood to stick to you" (390). His father is telling him here that in order to be a man, he must recognize certain loyalties. These loyalties have nothing to do with law and justice. They're about family, "old blood. " Sarty does understand this, but he had not determined how he is to reconcile this loyalty with what he knows is right. He is struggling within himself to find that medium between family loyalty and standing for what he believes.

Dave of "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" has a whole other struggle on his hands. He has been put down all his life by both his peers and his superiors. Although he has never stood up for himself, or what he believes in, Dave feels that he is a man. He doesn't feel he deserves to be "[talked] down to as though he were a little boy"(493). Determined to prove to the society around him that this is true, Dave buys...