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The Barn Burning

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Young Sarty has a choice: He can be loyal to his father, his blood relative, or he can do what he innately senses is right. He knows that his father is wrong when he burns barns, but Abner constantly reminds his son of the importance of family blood, and of the responsibilities that being part of a family entails. He tells Sarty, "You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain't going to have any blood to stick to you." In other words, if you are not utterly loyal to your own family, no matter if the family is right or wrong, then you will have no place to turn when you need help. At the end of the story, this is Sarty's dilemma--he has no place to go and no one to turn to.

The opening of "Barn Burning" emphasizes the antithetical loyalties that confront Sarty. The setting is a makeshift court for a Justice of the Peace, for Abner Snopes has been accused of burning Mr. Harris' barn. Immediately, Sarty is convinced that the people in the court are his and his father's enemies. He fiercely aligns himself with a loyalty to blood and kin, as opposed to the justice of the court: ". . . our enemy he thought in that despair; ourn! Mine and hisn both! He's my father!" Faulkner then recounts the events that have led up to the charge against Sarty's father: Mr. Harris had warned Snopes to keep his hog out of the farmer's cornfield, and he had even given Snopes enough wire to pen the hog; after the hog escaped yet again into Harris' field, the farmer kept the hog and charged Snopes a dollar for "pound fee"; Snopes paid the fee and sent word to Harris that "wood and hay kin burn." Because there is no proof--other than this enigmatic message--that Snopes is responsible for burning the barn, the judge is legally forced to find him innocent. However, he warns Snopes to leave the county and not come back



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