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Research Paper on Barn Burning

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Free Research Paper on Barn Burning

In this, another story Barn Burning written by William Faulkner in 1939, he uses a great deal of language to paint a vivid picture of life in the mythical county of Yoknapataupha, Mississippi. This story is recounted from The memories of a man named Colonel Sartoris Snopes (named after Colonel Sartoris whom his father served in the Civil War).

His father was obviously a man of little or no education who had developed an attitude in life of serving himself and no one else. He, at any perceived or real injustice always took matters into his own hands. The story begins with him on trial for burning a neighbors barn after sending a black man over for his hog and actually warning the man that hay and wood burn. Shortly thereafter the neighbors barn burned and the story opens in a court of the Justice of the Peace. The then young boy is remembering all this and the details of the court room which was actually a storeroom in a grocery apparently based on the tin goods stored in the room. The man whose barn was burned asks that the boy testify and the judge is incredulous as this was not proper decorum in that time. Finally, the man relents and says the boy does not have to testify and the case is dismissed due to lack of witnesses. Interestingly, the boy says he would have had to tell the truth had he been forced to testify even though he has a very real fear of his father. Later, the father actually hits the boy who had defended the family honor by fighting someone in the crowd calling them barn burners. The reason being that the father knows the boy would have testified and he tells him that they have to stand together against the world. This is obviously a common occurrence in the young mans life and always ends up the same, they are told to move on and never come back. They all gather in their wagon and leave, by all, this means the wife, her twin sister, his 2 sisters, and his older brother. They all are afraid of the father and dare not question him or his authority.

The central theme of the story culminates after this last move when they move onto property owned by a Major De Spain and take up residence in a tenant farm house belonging to the major. The boy and the father ride over to the majors house which is larger than anything the boy had seen in his life and just looks as the boy says big as a courthouse. As they approach the door the father steps (deliberately it would appear) in a large pile of horse droppings in the drive. The black man at the door tells the father to wipe his feet before coming in and also announces that the moor is not home at the moment anyhow, but the father derides him and enters the home anyway leaving quite a path on the rug which turns out later to have come from France at a great cost.

When the major returns home and discovers the condition of the carpet he rolls it up and takes it to the Snopes residence where he instructs the father to clean it and return it as it was. The father makes the boys two sisters clean the rug and then returns it to the major. The major tells Mr. Snopes that he will have to pay twenty bushels out of his labor to pay for the rug. Mr. Snopes (in a twist of irony) takes the major to court to have his edict of payment overturned. Mr. Snopes thinking that washing it would be sufficient finds out that it is not as he cannot attest to the fact that the rug looks as it did before is was stained. The judge shows some leniency reducing the payment to ten bushels of corn and five dollars.

The father is not happy with this and decides once again to burn the majors barn as he orders his son to get the kerosene against his wife’s wishes who says at least send a black man again like you did before. The young boy who by now has decided in his heart that this cannot go on (a fact that has not passed the fathers attention either) is restrained by his mother even though the father wants to physically tie him to his bed so he can’t warn the major. The father by now has headed towards the majors house.

The boy does in fact break away from his mother and heads for the majors house on foot, arriving there he warns the household about their barn and then runs out the door not knowing where he is headed. Presently, the major rides by him on his horse and somewhere up ahead the boy hears a shot and then two more. He knows without seeing that his father had died and is torn between love and righteousness and feels sorrow for his father but knows in his heart that his own life will now be better. He spends the night in the woods and the next morning gets up and starts to walk away.

While the story never gives his age other than the fact that he is reminiscing about all this twenty years after it took place it would appear that he was around seven or eight years old when all this transpired based on the chores he had to do at the time.

Barn Burning is a sad story of a young mans life that is redeemed by the fact that deep inside, this young man knew what was right and wrong and does what has to be done in the end as his conscious would not allow him to continue with his fathers ways. Had it turned out differently I would have fond it to be sadder than it already was.

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