What is the tone of "Barn Burning"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When we think of the tone of a given work of literature, we are referring to the attitude a writer takes towards a subject, a character, or the reader. I think it is clear that the grimly serious nature of the tale, and in particular, the kind of existence that Sarty has. Because of his father's penchant for barn burning and his clear resistance or conflict with any form of authority, he finds himself cut off from society and isolated. In addition, he has to constantly struggle with his own sense of right and wrong, and whether to disobey his father by revealing his guilt. This is of course what he nearly does at the beginning of the story, and his father realises this, and beats him for it. However, by the end of the story, this is what he decides to do, and we are left with a moving image of Sarty looking up at the constellations above him and then walking away from his father and family, without looking back.

Such events suggest a serious tone to this excellent work. There is no indication of irony or humour. Sarty is presented as a characer growing up in a grim, unforgiving world that is shaped by the malice of his father that forces him to grow up well before his time and to make a decision between his family and his morality that nobody should be forced to make.

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