Violence and Barn Burning

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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to hit a man, but you refuse to hate him”. William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning” illustrates this point. The main character in the story Sarty is faced with the choice of staying loyal to his family or straying away from his family and following his beliefs. Growing up in an environment where violence is present causes one to struggle with their values, beliefs, and morals.

In the beginning of the short story, Sarty is struggling with the choice of right and wrong. He has to make the choice to stand up for what he believes in or to back down and continue to deal with the violence in his family even though it comes from the love his father has and not from anger. Sarty has become use to the violence in his household. The following paragraph from the story shows this: Then the boy was moving, his bunched shirt and the hard, bony hand between his shoulder-blades, his toes just touching the floor, across the room and into the other one, past the sisters sitting with spread heavy thighs in the two chairs over the cold hearth, and to where is mother and aunt sat side by side on the bed .. “Hold him,” the father said.

According to Yusin, “the narrator’s silencing of Sarty’s pain would correspond to a strategy frequently used by victims of family violence: a refusal to feel pain or anger or the impulse to resist, or any other response which might incur further violence” (par 6). One way for Sarty to avoid such violence is to keep his father, Abner happy and do what is asked of him. Abner only displayed violence out of love and frustration. Several times in the story when he was acting in such a manner he would restrain himself from doing even more harm. His father struck him with the flat of his hand on the side of the head, hard but without heat.. He would strike “without heat”. By Abner showing such...
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