What is one conflict in "Barn Burning"?

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lensor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most notable conflict in Faulkner's "Barn Burning" is internal: Sarty knows that Ab, his father, burns barns when he is angry or dissatisfied with their owners, but the young boy will not testify against his parent. This conflict continues to build inside Sarty until the end of the story. When Ab decides to burn Major DeSpain's barn, Sarty cannot continue to go along with his father's actions. Instead, he alerts DeSpain to the presence of an intruder in the barn, and Sarty then walks away from his family's home.

More profound, though, is the conflict between the Old South, as exemplified by such characters as DeSpain, and the New South, as presented in the Snopes clan. Faulkner depicts the clash in the two cultures' value systems through the conflicts between the Snopes and the traditional Southern gentry. As Sarty abandons his family's home, he turns his back on the baser value system of the New South. While he does not immediately turn toward the more genteel society of the Old South, his departure without a backward glance indicates his renunciation of the vulgarity and violence attributed to the "New Southerner."

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Barn Burning

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