Why do Mr. Harris and the Judge decide not to make Sarty testify in "Barn Burning"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. Harris and the Judge decide not to make Sarty testify against his father because they are decent men and understand how difficult it would be for the young boy to do that.  Although Sarty thinks, out of unquestioning, childlike loyalty to his father, that the Judge is his "enemy", he does not see "that the Justice's face (is) kindly" and his voice "troubled" when he asks Harris if Harris really wants him to question the boy.  The Judge has perceived the sullen, threatening demeanor of the father, who will not look at his son, and the "frantic grief and despair" of Sarty, who knows that his father expects him to lie.  The sight of the boy, "the little one...crouching, small for his age...in patched and faded jeans even too small for him", moves the Judge to pity, and touches the sensibility of Harris as well.  They decide not to put Sarty through the ordeal of having to testify against his degenerate father.

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Barn Burning

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