how is Faulkner's Nobel Prize speech related to his story "Barn Burning" ?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech by Faulkner helped the world understand "Barn Burning" and many other of his writings. As of the moment he won the award, people were used to accept Faulkner as a naturalist who used scientific detail to describe specific moments in the lives of persons. However, when he gave his speech he gave another side of his persona, bringing out his most humanistic and sincere self. Among his words, it is quotable:

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work--a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit….I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure:…I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an
inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Sarty has much to do with his fate. He was dragged into a life of evil and crime because of his father. After alerting the deSpain family that his father was going to burn their barn, he was actually declaring his independence from this man, and his eventual mental freedom. In Barn Burning, the sacrifices that Sarty has endured and eventually end up in the deaths of his brothers and fathers (the barn burners), will in time present itself as a future glory, because he was able to liberate himself from that Hades he lived in. This is the most humanistic aspect of his speech, and of his novel.

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