“Barn Burning”, by William Faulkner shows how conflicting obligations to family loyalty can affect the decisions that are made and the responsibility that comes with making them. However, the story concentrates on how a 10 year old boy is faced with the dilemma of choosing to be loyal to his father and family or do what he feels is morally right and just by being able to be free as his own person and leaves his sorrow, grief and family behind.
The readers are introduced to the protagonist and main character, 10-year old Colonel Sartoris at the opening of the story where the setting is a court for the justice of peace and Sarty is to testify against his father the, antagonist, Abner Snopes, who is an angry, destructive, and a morally dysfunctional man who has been accused of burning a barn. In the beginning of the story, Sarty is certain that the man who accused his father of burning his barn is his and his father's enemy. He stands behind his father, his own blood with loyalty instead of supporting the justice of the court. For example, “…our enemy he thought in that despair; ourn! Mine and hisn both! He’s my father!” (262). Although, Sarty is convinced that his father’s enemy is his as well, he also is scared because he has a loss of hope and sorrow as he knows his father was wrong for having the “enemy’s” barn burned, but didn’t want to betray his father. Upon, Sarty’s discovery of being called to testify he didn’t want to lie, but knew he would be forced to do it based on his father’s expectations; this bothered Sarty as his heart was full of sorrow and pain. When Mr. Harris calls Sarty to testify before the court, this is where Sarty’s conflict occurs. Sarty states his full name when requested by the justice, Sarty stated his full name, “Colonel Sartoris Snopes”, the justice stated, “I reckon any boy named for Colonel Sartoris in this country can’t help but tell the truth, can they?” (263).