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Essay/Term paper: Loyalty to family in the short story "barn burning"

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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The short story "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner is a stark look at the struggle of a boy to try to do what is right, or do what is best for his family during the post Civil War era. The main character, Sartoris Snopes is a poor son of a migrant tenant farmer who, in the opening scene is being questioned about the burning of a farmers barn by his father, Abner Snopes. The boy is torn between choosing what is right, telling the truth, or lying to protect his father. The boy is not forced to tell to judge about his father burning the barn, but is certain he would have told if asked. The father is a soldier from the Civil War and has knack for burning down the barns of those who cross his path. Faulkner uses the symbol of blood to illustrate the theme of loyalty to the family.

Faulkner illustrates the theme of blood when he is to testify, and is pressured by his father to lie. In the makeshift courtroom, when the boy is put on the stand he is pressured because he knows that his father will do something rash if his son tells the truth. He also is told that some things are more important than the truth, that family is the most important thing. When Abner states, "You would have told them." This shows how the boy feels toward his blood father, and how even though it would have been a lie he should have testified in his fathers favor. This scene also reveals how the father feels about family. The father believes that family should always bail out family. When the boy is thinking about the "old grief of blood" he means that his father has done this before and that he has lied for his father before. This theme is carried further when the boy thinks, "our enemy, Ourn! Mine and hisn both! He"s my father". The boy thinking this would show that not only has he done this before but the boy is used to dealing with it.

Faulkner illustrates the theme of blood when the father explains that the family must stick together. In the scenes following the courthouse, as the boy and his father talk about the incident, Abner states, "You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain"t going to have any blood to stick to you.". The father says this almost as if he were trying to convince the boy rather than explain it to him. Even though he resents his father for all of the things that he does to people, he still sticks up for him. In the scene when Abner is confronted about the rug he has just soiled, his son tries to redeem him by saying, "You done the best you could!", "If he wanted hit done different why didn"t he wait and tell you how?". This shows that the boy has some respect for his "blood", and that even though he is against his fathers decisions, he still supports them because he is family.

Faulkner illustrates the theme of blood when the boy infers that his blood again will be the cause of his problems. The boy is again is tried by his fathers actions, and he hopes that his father will quit his ways. The boys hope is shown when he states, "Maybe it will all add up and balance and vanish-corn, rug, fire; the terror and grief, the being pulled two ways like between two teams of horses-gone, done with forever and ever.". As the father is again being questioned by a magistrate he is now backed up by his son as he states, "He ain"t done it! He ain"t burnt(the rug)…". He does this out of protection for himself and for protection for his father. He knows that if he doesn"t stick up for his father he will suffer and if he lies he could be in trouble with the court.

 

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