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"Barn Burning" is a short story by William Faulkner that was first published in Harper's Magazine in 1939. William Faulkner uses two protagonists, Sarty Snopes and Abner Snopes, to expose their perceptions, judgments, thoughts, and feelings. Therefore, William portrays the character of his protagonists by exploring their mind where the inner feelings and experiences of these characters show random growth through thoughts and intellect consciousness. At the end, Sarty is able to realize that he can't be like his father and thus he should not follow his father's path. He ends up defying his father's ways which shows profound knowledge and courage for such a young boy.
The story begins with Sarty being in court where he hopes that he will not testify in the arson case against his father - a case that he is completely guilty. W. Faulkner shows the aspect of blood relationship and the principles that the young boy holds since Sarty sees the judge as an enemy of the family. On their way out of the court, a kid calls Sarty "Barn Burner!" and knocks him down twice (Faulkner 16). He tries to run after the kind but he is stopped by the father. This is used perhaps as the ignition point of Sarty's inner thoughts where he is now referred in the same manner as his father. During the night, he is woken up by his father who accuses him of almost betraying him in court. The father goes ahead to hit him and tells him that to stand by his family was the most important thing to do.
They reach their new home the following day, which was a shack on the farm they will be working as tenant farmers. His father wants to talk to the owner and he follows him. When Sarty sees the owner's white mansion, he thinks that his father can't hurt people like that. Abner intentionally steps in fresh horse poop, forces his way in to the mansion and steps all over a white rug in the front room with the poop. Mr. de Spain brings the rug to Abner's shack to be cleaned where his two daughters dry it on the fire. Later, de Spain returns insulting Abner and claiming that his rug is "ruined" (Faulkner 62). De Spain tells Abner that he will charge twenty extra bushels of corn for the hundred-dollar rug. When de Spain leaves, Sarty tell the father that they should not give him any corn. This mental process of generating thoughts reveals his loyalty to the family.
On Saturday, he goes to town with the family and they leave to the store with the father where he sees a Justice of the Peace Court in session and de Spain was there. Abner had sued him to have the twenty bushel fee reduced. Sarty exclaims that his father is not guilty of burning of any barn. The Justice decides that Abner is responsible for the damage of the rug but the fee is reduced to ten bushels. He later realizes that his father is planning to burn de Spain's barn. His father and brother notice that he is planning to alert de Spain and they leave him behind with his mother.
Sarty frees himself and runs to de Spain's house to warn him but is only able to utter "Barn!" a few times. W. Faulkner successfully portrays the character of the child in "Barn Burning" where he exposes the moral awareness. Despite Sarty knowing that what he does defies the family morals, he walks towards the woods in front after waking up and does not turn around. This final and climatic decision to defy his father's rule is seen as a proof of his own moral correctness against the demonic qualities of Abner (Zender 28-9). Therefore, there has been growth in Sarty's mind that prompts him to change his earlier stand.