In "Barn Burning," how does Sarty's character evolve?

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Sarty's character development can be observed through his reaction to the events of the story.

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Faulkner's "Barn Burning" is a character-driven story, as what moves it forward is Sarty's internal growth as a character. We see him begin as a young child with strong trust in his beloved father and end as a young boy beginning to think for himself and develop a sense of independence and grow into a stronger character.

Sarty's father is a challenging character to like. He is rude, violent, and argumentative, traits revealed in his behavior throughout the story. He rudely and intentionally wipes his dirty shoes on de Spain's rug, argues over the fee he must pay for the damage he's caused, then attempts to burn de Spain's barn in a fit of spite. Throughout this progression of events, Sarty is faced with a difficult choice: remain loyal to his father and come to the man's defense or speak out. Initially, the boy remains silent. He insists in court that his father is innocent of burning Mr. Harris's barn (an earlier offense we don't witness but nonetheless are led to believe Mr. Snopes is guilty of by the end of the story), despite being bullied by his peers over the matter and the increasing evidence that his father is a criminal.

By the end of the story, Sarty finally breaks away from his childish defense of his father. The last straw is when his father attempts to burn de Spain's barn down out of spite. The boy runs to de Spain, confesses his father is a barn-burner, and escapes to the woods just as he hears gunshots that presumably signal his father's death, though the story never makes this certain. We are left with the image of poor Sarty waking up peacefully in the woods, alone, away from the chaos of his father, and remarkably calm. By this point, the boy has made a tremendous leap in his development as a free thinker and a braver, bolder individual. He no longer blindly clings to his father like a child but instead is able to see his father's true character and bravely break away from a toxic relationship. Sarty's character growth is thus not just in maturity but also in grit. Informing de Spain of his father's barn-burning plans is a brave act that the Sarty in the beginning of the story would have been incapable of.

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In William Faulkner's "Barn Burning," the character Sarty experiences great growth throughout the story. He begins as a child who is fearful of his father--both disappointing him and incurring his wrath and violence. He is willing to lie to a judge to protect his father and remain loyal to his family. As the story progresses, and particularly when Sarty sees his father deliberately, maliciously soil the de Spain's white rug, he realizes that his father will never change and if he's not careful, he will turn into his father one day. It is at this moment, that Sarty realizes that he must make a choice between his own integrity and loyalty to his father.

He chooses integrity--at the cost of losing his family. When he alerts the de Spain's that his father has set fire to the barn, he irrevocably changes the course of his life. Shots are fired and his father and brother are probably killed; now that he has betrayed his family, Sarty has no choice but to run away. The final scene of this coming of age story shows Sarty walking away, with the sense that he will be better off and has made the right decision.

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In "Barn Burning," what happens to Sarty which causes him to abandon is father, the rest of his family, and the only life he has ever known?

"Barn Burning" is a story about doing right and wrong. It is also a story about the strength of family bonds and blood relations. This idea of sticking with your family and doing what your family does regardless of whether or not it is the right thing to do is put before readers early on in the story. Sarty was previously in a position where he knew he was going to have to lie to protect his father. Sarty knew it was wrong, but he was prepared to do it.

His father, stiff in his black Sunday coat donned not for the trial but for the moving, did not even look at him. He aims for me to lie, he thought, again with that frantic grief and despair. And I will have to do it.

His father, Abner, is a hate-filled man, but he isn't stupid. Abner realizes that Sarty is beginning to struggle with a moral code, so Abner tries to convince his son that family trumps right and wrong.

You got to learn. You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you.

As the family moves and gets to their new destination, readers see Sarty hoping against all hopes that his father will change.

Maybe he will feel it too. Maybe it will even change him now from what maybe he couldn't help but be.

We see these kinds of thoughts a couple of times; however, Sarty will eventually realize that his father isn't going to change, and Sarty decides he can't continue to be a part of doing wrong anymore. Abner realizes this, and that is why he has Sarty's mother hold him tightly. Sarty breaks free, runs to the house, warns de Spain, and the result is likely the death of Abner. Regardless of whether or not Abner is dead, Sarty has broken his ties with his family by choosing to do what is right rather than sticking to his own blood. Sarty does what he does because his moral code is strong.

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