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Barn Burning summary by William Faulkner

“Barn Burning” is a story written by William Faulkner, set in the late 1800’s. The story begins in a Justice of the Peace Court which is housed in the country store. Sarty is the first character encountered in the courtroom, he is a hungry boy; we can see this from the way he craves the cheese and meat whose smell fills the courtroom. He is here as a witness against his father. Sarty is in dilemma; will he be loyal to his blood or to the state? In this essay we shall discuss the story briefly, and see how Sarty breaks out of this dilemma.

Abner Snopes is Sarty’s father. He isaccused by one Mr. Harris of burning his barn. Sarty wants justice to prevail and he knows the truth is against Abner. However, he has to lie to save his father who has always insisted the importance of being loyal to one’s blood. Luckily, Sarty is not questioned. Abner Snopes is set free due to lack of evidence but advised by the judge to leave the country and never go back.

Outside the courtroom we see Sarty fighting boys in defense of his father when the boys call him a barn burner. Again, he is being loyal to his blood, despite his knowledge of truth. Abner Snopes takes off with his family to what will be their new home.

Sarty goes with his father to the farm owner. He sees the mansion, bigger than any other that he had seen. He felt the peace and joy that he associated with the mansion; it was a sign of justice to him. His father would not get to harm the dwellers of the mansion, he thought. However, this was not to last as Abner deliberately stepped on fresh horse droppings and spread them on the rug in de Spain’s mansion. He damaged it when it was brought to him for cleaning. Abner was charged twenty bushels of corn for the damage but he appealed and the charge was reduced to ten bushels. In the courtroom Sarty was already shouting in defense of his father when Abner silenced him; again we see his loyalty to his blood.

Later that night Abner burnt down de Spain’s barn and Sarty ran to warn de Spain who almost ran him over as he rushed to save his barn. Sarty heard three gunshots and he knew his father was dead. He walked ahead into the woods, mourning his father but without looking back. This way Sarty broke out of the blood loyalty and it was a new dawn for him where justice prevailed.

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