This paper is aimed at discussing the topic of the short story Barn Burning written by William Faulkner. In particular, this literary work describes the conflict between a boy’s devotion to his family and his keen sense of justice. This issue can also be described as the necessity to choose between individual sympathies and personal integrity. In my opinion, this topic is of high relevance to modern community in which individuals have to make ethical choices. Furthermore, it is relevant to many areas as the education of children, law, politics, or business. More importantly, there are no clear guidelines explaining how they should act in such cases. This is why the topic of Faulkner’s short story should not be disregarded.
It should be noted that William Faulkner tells the story of a boy called Sartoris Snopes. In the beginning, he has to testify in front of the court, and he chooses to bear false witness to save his father, who burnt the barn of his neighbour (Faulkner 4). He has to compromise his principles to protect his family. However, later Sartoris learns that his father plans to commit an arson once again, and he decides to thwart his plan by telling the owner of the house about the threat (Faulkner 23). In his opinion, this is the only way to avert the catastrophe. The author does not tell the readers the exact ending of this story, but one can deduce that Sartoris’ father is killed while the boy abandons his family in which he will be regarded as a traitor. In this way, the author raises several ethical questions about the behaviour of the protagonist and prompts the readers to put themselves in his position.
The topic of this story is essential for several reasons. First of all, in the course of a person’s life, he/she often has to choose between the commitment to justice and the dedication to a particular group or an individual. These ethical dilemmas arise in various setting, such as courts or governmental organizations (Stark 21). In many cases, individual sympathies or committeemen of a person can put public welfare at risk (Stark 21). Furthermore, every decision that a person can take may have profound implication for him or her. In particular, this person can be turned into an outcast just like Sartoris, who leaves his family (Faulkner 23). In turn, this individual can compromise this personal integrity and suffer from remorse. In my opinion, this issue should attract the close attention of parents and educators who shape the ethical values of children (Brown 49). This problem is particularly relevant if one speaks about parents who force their children to compromise their integrity just as it was done by Sartoris’ farther. This is one of the main points that should not be overlooked.
One should take into consideration that William Faulkner does not evaluate Sartoris’ decision. It seems that the author wants to distance himself from the events described in the novella. Instead, he wants the readers to form their conclusions about the action of the main character and his motives. On the whole, the conflict between a person’s loyalties and his/her sense of justice is one of the questions that Faulkner wants to explore in his works, but it is not clear whether he can answer it. Probably, in this way, he wishes to demonstrate that there is a universal answer to such ethical dilemmas. More importantly, no one can be insured against taking the wrong choice under such circumstances. In my opinion, this dilemma can pose significant challenges for every person.
It should be noted that this issue has been of great interest to legislators who want to design policies in which a person’s sympathies cannot impact his impartiality (Brenkert & Beauchamp 458). Such a situation is illustrated by Faulkner at the beginning of the short story when Sartoris chooses to give false testimony to protect his father. There are many procedures that are supposed to minimize the impact of a person’s commitments on the decisions that can influence the general public (Brenkert & Beauchamp 458). Nevertheless, one cannot guarantee that these precautions are always useful. So, it should be taken into account that the moral dilemma described by William Faulkner can manifest themselves in many areas such as business or public administration.
On the whole, this discussion indicates that the necessity to choose between individual sympathies and justice has been of great interest to writers, legislators and teachers. William Faulkner does not want to impose his beliefs on the readers, and in this way, he demonstrates the complexity of the dilemma that the main character has to resolve. As has been shown, this issue is of great importance to many people, such as lawyers, teachers, policy-makers, or parents. The main problem is that every individual may have to face such difficulties, and it is not entirely clear how one should act.
Brenkert, George, and T. Beauchamp. The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
Brown, Nina. Coping With Infuriating, Mean, Critical People: The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern, New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. Print.
Faulkner, William. The collected short stories of William Faulkner, New York: Chatto & Windus, 1958. Print.
Stark, Andrew. Conflict of Interest in American Public Life, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. Print.