The term modernist dilemma might be interpreted in a number of ways, one of which relates to the problem of alienation. The modernist is too skeptical and deracinated to be a member of a tribe and thus comes to feel that they are entirely alone against the world.
In William Faulkner's "Barn Burning," Abner Snopes is disgusted with and violent towards his son, Sarty, for wavering in his loyalty towards the family and failing to protect Abner in particular. At this point, Sarty has already been knocked down by a boy who implicates him with his father in the crime of barn burning.
It seems as though whatever Sarty does, he will be punished by violence from some quarter. However, his alienation means that he inhabits the worst of all possible worlds. He does not take a stand for law and order against his father's crimes, but neither is he committed to protecting his family. This indecision brings violence upon him from every side. Even later in the story, when Sarty does take the side of the law by warning Mr. de Spain that his barn is to be burned, he receives no reward for his honesty, and he remains isolated from everyone at the end of the narrative.