Discuss the point of view of the narrator in "Barn Burning".
Despite being a fairly accessible short story, the narrative is actually quite complex. The narrative is told from the third-person perspective. That means the narrator is someone looking at the events from the outside. Often, a third person narrator is omniscient; however, that isn't the case with this story.
The third person narrator is limited to mainly telling readers about Sarty. A good indicator of this limitation is the fact that Sarty is in every scene, and he is the focus of the narration. The narrator is focused on him. Sure, we are told what other people are doing, but we are never told what they are thinking. The narrator only gives readers information about Sarty's thoughts, and this also indicates a level of limitation in the narrator's viewing abilities. Finally, the narrative is narrating past events. We know that Sarty is a ten-year-old boy, but we also know that he lives to be at least thirty.
Later, twenty years later, he was to tell himself, "If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have hit me again."
While the events of the story are intense, and we do wonder what is going to happen to Sarty, we ultimately know that he survives his father's craziness.
The point of view for this story is from Sarty, a ten year old boy, for much of the story. Occasionally, Faulkner breaks this perspective and uses an omniscient narrator.
Faulkner was a fan of perspectivism, which is the telling of a story from a particular point of view or views. This story in particular is fairly traditional because the reader is given only Sarty's perspective for most of the story. Faulkner has written stories that employ a variety of narrators, such as The Sound and the Fury.
The point of view in Faulkner's "Barn Burning" is one of a limited omniscient narrator. The narrator is not a real live person in the story but rather a nonparticipant who can see into Sarty's head. Faulkner does this so that he can build up to the climax of the story giving only the details he thinks are crucile for the reader to know without giving away too much of Sarty's thoughts. You will notice that at times the narrator says things that Sarty himself doesn't know or even what Sarty would think if only he were older.