In what ways does Sarty in William Faulkner's story "Barn Burning" represent the Old South while his father represents the rising, mechanistic, New South? 

Expert Answers
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Colonel Sartoris Snopes or "Sarty," who appears as a young boy in William Faulkner's story "Barn Burning" is in many ways quite unlike his father Abner Snopes. The story is about his growing up torn between his own moral sense (identified with the traditions of honor of the Old South) and his loyalty to his family (another characteristic of the Old South):

Maybe it will all add up and balance and vanish—corn, rug, fire; the terror and grief, the being pulled two ways like between two teams of horses—gone, done with for ever and ever. 

Abner is a tenant farmer resentful of the wealthy landowners for whom he works. He expresses this resentment by striking back at them in ways that range from petty larceny and bad work habits to setting fires. He rebels not only against the social conventions and inequalities of the Old South, but also the sense of community and loyalty that were part of the southern ethos.

When the family begins to work for Major de Spain, Sarty gets a sense of a life, that of the Old South and its traditions, which is more gracious and peaceful than the one his father lives, and also begins to slowly work out his own sense of ethics. When his father prepares to set Major de Spain's barn on fire, he runs away from his mother to alert the Major, solidifying his allegiance to the values of the Old South.

Read the study guide:
Barn Burning

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question