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Sarty's Conflict In William Faulkner's &Quot;Barn Burning&Quot;

1040 words - 4 pages

Sarty's Conflict

William Faulkner's "Barn Burning" provides an excellent example of how conflicting loyalties can affect decisions. In Faulkner's story, the main character, Sarty, faces such a dilemma. On one hand, Sarty has the morals that society has instilled in him in spite of his father. One the other hand, Sarty has the loyalty to his father because of the blood ties shared between them and the fact that his father raised and provided for him. Ultimately, it is these conflicting ideas that will lead to Sarty's final decision.

Sarty definitely feels a large obligation to be loyal to his father because of blood ties. Faulkner makes this quite clear in the text several times. Even in the first paragraph Sarty looks at the prosecutor and thinks, "our enemy" (Faulkner76) and also "mine and his both! He's my father!" (Faulkner 74). Faulkner also demonstrates that Sarty is willing to fight for his father. When someone hisses "Barn burner!" (Faulkner 76) at his father, Sarty immediately pursues the offender with the full intention of making him pay for injuring his father's honor. Furthermore, even though he thinks what his father did was wrong, he still shows loyalty by hoping his father will change. Faulkner shows this by writing "Maybe this is the end of it. Maybe even that twenty bushels that seems hard to have to pay for just a rug will be a cheap price for him to stop forever and always from being what he used to be..." (Faulkner 82). While Sarty was debating about betraying his father, he expressed his loyalty to his father in the lines "I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again. Only I can't" (Faulkner 85). In the end, even after he has betrayed his father he still shows loyalty towards him. Sarty's last thoughts about his father in the story were, "He was brave!" (Faulkner 87) and "He was in the war! He was in Colonel Sartoris' cav'ry" (Faulkner 87).

In spite of his being raised by his father, Sarty still feels loyalty to the morals instilled in him by society. Faulkner first demonstrates this to us when Sarty is called to the stand. Faulkner writes "He aims for me to lie, he (Sarty) thought, again with that frantic grief and despair" (Faulkner 75). The fact that Sarty felt grief and despair at the idea of lying for his father demonstrates that Sarty knows that it is morally wrong and does have some loyalty to morals. Sarty feels joy at the sight of how big Major de Spain's house is because "They are safe from him. People whose lives are a part of this peace and dignity are beyond his touch..." (Faulkner 78). This proves that Sarty knows and feels that what his father did is morally wrong. He even goes as far as to hope that his father will change and adhere to society's values, as is shown when Faulkner writes "Maybe he will feel it too. Maybe it...

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