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“Barn Burning” by William Faulkner

Books can be a great avenue for exploring ideas. By writing about one’s feelings and thoughts, they can be shaped more clearly, be transformed and be understood by others. As a creative medium, literature is one of the best ways to properly examine the phenomena of the human condition in great detail, channeling people’s imagination and knowledge. By actively utilizing the written language, a writer can elicit much emotion from their audience. Themes that can be seen in fiction are often a point of implicit or explicit discussion, making individual think about their lives. In famous and classic literature, this notion is even more prominent than usual, analyzed in an effort to purposely provoke thought and start discussions. Straggles of love, loyalty, freedom, honesty, an individual’s life, they can all be explored by simply reading a book. The experience of reading puts a person into another’s shoes, but is ultimately shaped by their preexisting conceptions of self and others. The ideals and thoughts a person holds determines how they interpret a work of art, what characters they like or support, and how they may understand the main themes of the piece. In this regard, I am the same as any other person, with my personal experiences having shaped my psyche, allowed me to become a person that I am today, to carve out a shaky path forward with my own thoughts and desires. The days spent thinking, interacting with others and learning are what give me an opportunity to now thoughtfully engage with literary works of art.

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William Faulkner’s short story, Barn Burns, is in many ways emotional and hard to read. Taking the perspective of young Sartoris Snopes, the plot focuses on his inner struggles and concerns. The young boy is a part of a large family, which consists of himself, his parents and two sisters. The dad, simply speaking, is a violent and angry man, choosing to venting his frustrations on the people around him. In the beginning of the story, he is accused of burning the barn of his neighbor, as a way of having revenge. Little Sartoris testifies for his father’s innocence, despite knowing that it is not the truth of the events. The story focuses deeply on the conflict between supporting one’s family and adhering to morality and law. A number of characters inside the main hero’s family argue for the fact that one should always support his close ones, no matter what they do. Sartoris, too, actively chooses the wellbeing of his family over the truth, deciding to live in constant fear of his father’s actions. This decision does not make the boy happy, it seems, rather it pains him, especially when he sees his old man committing crimes again. In the end, he seems to change his decision and tells Major de Spain about the barn burning that is about to happen.

In my life, I, too, often think about the importance of supporting my family and its bearing on my ability to live a moral life. I think that the decision of the boy to betray his father’s wrongful actions is fully justified and should have been accomplished sooner, so that the latter would not harm the people around him to such an extent. I think that ultimately, individuals must hold people they hold dear accountable for their actions, more so than strangers. By actively subjecting our closest ones to scrutiny, we can offer them better perspective on their own actions, and give them an ability to improve. That may sound idealistic, but it is what I honestly believe, and something I would have no qualms taking action on. When my parents act in a way I consider to be inappropriate or wrong, I make an effort to actively criticize them, hoping that they understand my reasoning.

While family is certainly important, you cannot live while only depending on it, like the protagonist of the story did for a large part of his time. It is understandable why he acted that way, as he was only 10 years old, and the desire to keep his family safe and follows the rules set by adults is strong, but that does not mean that one cannot examine their own actions critically. I think that this story provides an important and interesting lesson for its readers. From our childhoods we are often told that family is the most important part of life, that you must always put the happiness and wellbeing of people closest to you in first place. This notion, idealistically supposes that people are without serious faults of their own. A person must be able to recognize and evaluate the actions of their family, to put them into perspective of their own worldview, and hold them up to scrutiny. Only by doing so can an individual will truly be able to live a happy and fulfilling life, not plagued by guilt, doubt or worry.

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