What are some dichotomies in William Faulkner's story titled "Barn Burning"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Among the many dichotomies (that is, opposites or oppositions) in William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” are the following:

• The difference between youth and age, as represented (for instance) by Sarty and his father.

• The difference between innocence and experience, also represented (for instance) by Sarty and his father.

• The difference between good and evil, also represented (for instance), by Sarty and his father.

• The difference between lower-class persons and upper-class persons, as represented (for instance) between Abner Snopes and Major De Spain.

• The difference between an itinerant lifestyle and a settled lifestyle, as represented (for instance) by Snopes and De Spain.

• The difference between illegal behavior and legal behavior, as represented (for instance) by Snopes and De Spain.

• The difference between the great power of some whites and the small power of some blacks, as represented (for instance) by Major De Spain and his servant.

• The difference between parental abuse and parental love, as represented in the conduct of Ab Snopes (on the other hand) and Mrs. Snopes (on the other hand) toward Sarty.

• The difference between compliance and disobedience, as represented by Sarty’s changing attitudes toward his father from the beginning to the ending of the story.

• The difference between amorality and morality, as represented by Sarty’s decision to do the right thing at the end of the tale after having failed to do so earlier.

• The difference between the past and the future, as implied by the final sentences of the story, which describe Sarty awakening after having disobeyed his father:

He got up. He was a little stiff, but walking would cure that too as it would the cold, and soon there would be the sun. He went on down the hill, toward the dark woods within which the liquid silver voices of the birds called unceasing - the rapid and urgent beating of the urgent and quiring heart of the late spring night. He did not look back.

SOMETHING EXTRA: It should be noted that some critics would dispute some of the oppositions mentioned above.  They would, in the main, be far more sympathetic to Abner Snopes, and far less sympathetic to De Spain, than the list above implies. They would see Snopes as a victim of his socio-economic circumstances and see De Spain as the product of his socio-economic privilege. In other words, these kinds of critics would "deconstruct" the kinds of oppositions listed above.

 

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