Why is the style in Barn Burning?

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

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In typical Faulkner style, Barn Burning infuses a myriad of literary licenses aimed to create a connection between the reader and the story. In the case of Barn Burning the first thing that stands out from Faulkner's creative license is the use of very long sentences- some of them containing up to sixteen independent or dependent clauses. The result is constant and non-stop description, narrative, and action.

This "Faulkner rambling" is characteristic for the inclusion of the many sensations that Sarty experiences now that, for the first time, he becomes aware of the disconnect between his mentality and that of his father.

As a growing, young man, Sarty is starting to discover life on his own. Young men in the Old South, especially, are given the chance to freely explore and indulge in their senses. Sarty has to develop these sensations under the guard of his senseless father. The result of Sarty's emotional state going randomly from his loyalty to his father to his own personal growth creates what is known as a stream of consciousness narrative. This is a way of telling a story in a sort of convoluted way which can go from past to present, or vice versa. The narrative does not have to flow in perfect rythm. Instead, it can be interrupted, and it can focus on several themes in no particular order.

One final observation on the style of Barn Burning is that the story is told from the perspective of Sarty, who is a ten year old boy. No matter who else takes part in the story, we will experience, feel, and witness everything from a ten year old's view. This entails two things: First, that if the story were to be told from another character's point of view, the story may lose some of its emotional appeal. Second, that the story may also be slightly exaggerated given that ten year old is a more emotional and impressionable witness than the average adult narrator.

In all, Barn Burning (like any other Faulkner story) is unique and full of a diversity of literary devices that make it fun and quick to read. Yet, the style also appeals to the natural curiosity of the reader and connects the reader to the story, effortlessly.

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