Barn Burning: Family vs. Morality
The theme of Faulkner's "Barn Burning" is Sarty Snopes's desire to break away from the oppressive conditions of his family life. Sarty gains this freedom when he decides to warn the de Spains because his father's violation of his own sort of morality liberates him from what he calls the "pull of blood," or duty to his family.
The narrator describes Sarty's father, Abner Snopes, as such: "There was something about his wolf-like independence and even courage . . . which impressed strangers, as if they got . . . a feeling that his ferocious conviction in the rightness of his own actions would be of advantage to all whose interest lies with his" (218-19). Sarty believed in this conviction of his father's. He was prepared to defend his father at the first trial: "He aims for me to lie, he thought, and I will have to do hit," and he fights the boy twice his size who calls out, "Barn burner!" (217-18). Still, he hopes that the fires will end, thinking, "Maybe he's done satisfied now," but when Abner begins to set ablaze his next barn, Sarty extinguishes the family ties (218). This time his father breaks his own moral code by not sending anyone to warn. Sarty pleads, "Ain't you even going to send a [slave]?" "At least you sent a [slave] before!" (227).
This violation liberates Sarty from the "the old blood which he had not been permitted to choose for himself" (227). During the first trial, as Sarty prepares himself to defend his father he experiences, "the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the...