Barn Burning By Faulkner: Character Analysis

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate January 2002

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In William Faulkner'sBarn Burning, the main character of Sarty is faced with an important decision: to do what he knows is right or to follow his father, whom he idolizes. Early on, Sarty follows his father. However, as the story progresses, there is a change in his character. He begins to think for himself, yet at the same time still manages to respect and idolize his father. With the change in his character comes a change in tone to the story.

This story is a perfect historical reflection of what times and beliefs were like during the time period after the Civil War. During Reconstruction, there were many problems including struggles between the classes, racial tensions, and also issues with gender. Each of these matters are addressed in Faulkner's Barn Burning. It is the story of Sarty's choice to do what was right instead of what his family wanted him to do.

None of the other members of Sarty's family were strong enough to go against their father, and warn De Spain about his barn. Sarty's sisters were no exception. "His two hulking sisters" are useless in the story, and every time they are mentioned, they are just sitting in chairs and usually complaining. For example when they are moving to their new shack one of them says "Likely hit ain't fitten for hawgs". They do not follow Sarty to do what is right because of their apathetic outlook, and they are not strong enough to go against their family.

As a Mississippian and a historian, William Faulkner's writings permeate with his own life experience and knowledge of the times. Faulkner's family lived in much the same time as the characters in Barn Burning and most likely in the same locations. Faulkner was a member of the...