William Faulkner’s short story, “Barn Burning,” can be interpreted as a coming of age story. The main character, Sarty, is a young boy who is forced to choose between following morals and supporting his father. Throughout the text the reader sees that he is torn between the two, not old enough to put his foot down and say no, but not young enough to continue on blissfully unaware.
Right from the beginning paragraph, Sarty is sitting in the back of the Justice of Peace’s court. Faulkner paints this picture of the little boy “crouched on his nail keg at the back of the crowded room” (Faulkner 493). From this simple sentence, the reader sees Sarty as a weak, unimportant character in the story. His father is accused of burning an “enemy’s” barn. “Our enemy he thought in that despair; ourn! Mine and hisn both! He’s my father!” (Faulkner 493). This sentence indicates that the 10 year old boy knows to support his blood relations. However, when he is called to the Justice he thinks, “He aims for me to lie… and I will have to do it,” (Faulkner 494) which indicates that the boy knows the truth, and even though to support his father would be lying, that’s what he needs to do. He continues to call the neighbor an enemy in his head, but when it comes to being questioned he freezes up. From this moment the reader begins to experience the battle inside Sarty’s head that continues throughout the story. That is, the battle between right and wrong, family or betrayal.
In that moment of frozen nerves, Sarty feels, “As if he had swung outward at the end of a grape vine, over a ravine, and at the top of the swing had been caught in a prolonged instant of mesmerized gravity, weightless in time.” (Faulkner 494.) This quote holds an abundance of symbolism abot the position Sarty was put in. He was momentarily stuck in this weightless, timeless, unknowing moment, swung out over a ravine suggesting that if he let go, if he give in to his own morals, he could be flung into a world of...
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