Growth in William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”
The word family evokes an image of trust and a bond of loyalty. In William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”, the main characters in both these stories demonstrate the idea of family loyalty in several ways. While they continue to express the values of family loyalty, the main characters have to overcome several obstacles. Searching for ways to communicate effectively with their families and maintaining their changing identities trap the characters. In “Barn Burning”, Sarty is conflicted with being loyal to his family and being loyal to himself and in “Sonny’s Blues”, the brother has to deal with being loyal to Sonny’s values. During this process, it changes their character and forces them to change and learn about themselves.
In “Barn Burning”, Sarty is emotionally torn by two personalities, one being loyal to his Father, and the other is being loyal to society because in his mind, he knows he’s doing the right thing. But in the beginning of the story, Sarty’s personality starts to pull when the Justice of the Peace is questioning him. Sarty has the need to tell the truth yet with his Father’s dominating presence there, he cannot do it. “He aims for me to lie, he thought again with that frantic grief and despair,” (p.398). In one sentence, there is an instant clear meaning that Sarty is distraught in making decisions having to involve his Father. In this moment though, he also feels his Father’s emotions penetrating right into his body through his Father, “did not even look at him” (p.398). Sarty’s sense of loyalty sides strongly with family due to the fact of how he was raised. The time period in which the story takes place is a time when traditional family values were of high importance. The men, such as the Father, Abner, plays a leading role in Sarty’s life because he expects a lot out of him. Sarty was taught to always stick to his own kind, his family, otherwise he would have none. “You got to stick to your own blood” (p.400).
In comparison to Sarty’s character, the brother from “Sonny’s Blues” also deals with loyalty, but of a different type. The brother is caught up in wanting the world to serve him in order to live a successful life therefore fantasizing about the “American Dream”. He is so fixated on this “American Dream” that he overlooks what Sonny wants to do with his life and instead pulls him further into his own goals. What the brother is doing is taking care of Sonny, he is fulfilling his promise to his Mother. His Mother wanted him to take care of Sonny because she knows how tough it was when his Father lost his brother. As a result, her words of wisdom haunt him and remains in his memory forever. The brother can already relate to this for the reason that he just recently lost his own two-year old daughter who suffered from polio. “You may not be able to stop nothing from happening. But you got to let...