In William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”, a 10-year old boy named Colonel Sartoris is forced to make moral decisions with possible consequences.
He wants to be supportive of his arsonist father, Abner, because of his obligation to defend his “blood.”He weighs out the consequences in different situations to try and make the right decisions.Sarty is faced with the internal conflict of being loyal to his family vs. doing what he knows is morally right; in the end,he rejects his father’s value system. Sarty wants to remain loyal to his father.When the story begins, Sarty is at a trial where his being accused of barn burning.Sarty can hear his father’s enemy talking to the justice, and feels like the person talking is his enemy too.
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He thinks to himself, “ourn! Mine and hisn both! He’s my father!”, and he feels obligated to fully support him (159).At Abner’s first trial, Sarty is called to the witness stand, and is ready to defend him:“He aims for me to lie, he thought, and I will have to do hit”(159). As the justice is asking Sarty for his name, Sarty thinks “Enemy! Enemy!” (159).Sarty sounds like he has to convince himself that the justice is the enemy.He fights a boy twice his size for calling out “barn burner!”These are all prime examples of Sarty supporting his father even though he knows his father is wrong.Sarty is forced to use his own discretion in every situation to decide between remaining loyal to his father or defying his family by doing what is right.The best description of Sarty feeling torn between loyalty and doing what is right is when he says he feels as if he is “being pulled two ways like between two teams of horses” (166).There is one example of Abner teaching Sarty to go against the community that really stands out.He tells Sarty, “You’re getting to be a man.You got to learn.You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you” (161).Abner is basically telling Sarty that no matter what, you defend your family.This warning from his own father makes it even more difficult for him to do what he thinks is right.He knows what is right, but he has been told that family is more important than the truth.When Abner tells him to “stick to his own blood”, it seems like he is trying more to convince Sarty rather than simply explaining it to him.Sarty knows that his father burning barns is wrong.He begs Abner not to burn barns anymore.