Why is "Barn Burning" an important story?Is there some truth in both the father's and son's perspectives?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are several reasons that “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner is an important story.  First of all, the story is quintessential Faulkner.  This means it is a perfect example of Faulkner’s art.  It also demonstrates Faulkner’s mastery of unusual and complicated literary techniques such as “stream of consciousness” narration, where there is no filter between what the character is thinking and the reader.

The story is also important because of the setting, the post-civil war American South.  It was a difficult time in American history, when we were trying to put ourselves back together as a country and the South was trying to grapple with its new condition of living without slavery.

Finally, the story has important themes regarding effects of abolition on the South.  The Southerners suddenly found themselves confronted with hordes of freed slaves who had no place to live, no money, and often no skills.  Sharecropping was how most of them survived.

The main conflict between the father and son is regarding the son’s testimony.  Ab, a sharecropper, is accused of burning down his employer’s barn.  From Sarty’s point of view, it is important to tell the truth so that the wrong person does not get punished.  From Ab’s point of view, Sarty depends on him and a son should not betray his father.  In a way, both are correct.  If Sarty were to tell, what would happen to him?  Yet Sarty is also trying to do what he thinks is the right thing.  In the end, his father turns out to be even more unstable and Sarty decides to leave.

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