Faulkner's "Barn Burning " is a character-driven story, as what moves it forward is Sarty's internal growth as a character. We see him begin as a young child with strong trust in his beloved father and end as a young boy beginning to think for himself and develop a...
Faulkner's "Barn Burning" is a character-driven story, as what moves it forward is Sarty's internal growth as a character. We see him begin as a young child with strong trust in his beloved father and end as a young boy beginning to think for himself and develop a sense of independence and grow into a stronger character.
Sarty's father is a challenging character to like. He is rude, violent, and argumentative, traits revealed in his behavior throughout the story. He rudely and intentionally wipes his dirty shoes on de Spain's rug, argues over the fee he must pay for the damage he's caused, then attempts to burn de Spain's barn in a fit of spite. Throughout this progression of events, Sarty is faced with a difficult choice: remain loyal to his father and come to the man's defense or speak out. Initially, the boy remains silent. He insists in court that his father is innocent of burning Mr. Harris's barn (an earlier offense we don't witness but nonetheless are led to believe Mr. Snopes is guilty of by the end of the story), despite being bullied by his peers over the matter and the increasing evidence that his father is a criminal.
By the end of the story, Sarty finally breaks away from his childish defense of his father. The last straw is when his father attempts to burn de Spain's barn down out of spite. The boy runs to de Spain, confesses his father is a barn-burner, and escapes to the woods just as he hears gunshots that presumably signal his father's death, though the story never makes this certain. We are left with the image of poor Sarty waking up peacefully in the woods, alone, away from the chaos of his father, and remarkably calm. By this point, the boy has made a tremendous leap in his development as a free thinker and a braver, bolder individual. He no longer blindly clings to his father like a child but instead is able to see his father's true character and bravely break away from a toxic relationship. Sarty's character growth is thus not just in maturity but also in grit. Informing de Spain of his father's barn-burning plans is a brave act that the Sarty in the beginning of the story would have been incapable of.