Student Question

What is your interpretation of the ending of "Barn Burning"?

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I interpret the end of this story as positive. Sarty, the confused but honest son of the serial arsonist, Abner Snopes, has gone to alert Mr. de Spain, his father's new employer, that Abner plans to burn down his barn. This is something that his father has apparently done several times before. Abner is a cold and distant man who seems to exhibit hardly any feeling, even for his wife and children, and he struck Sarty after the last time Abner burned a barn down and Sarty seemed reluctant to lie to protect him. Sarty has seen his father purposely disrespect the home of de Spain, then purposely ruin the rug he'd damaged on that visit, and though Sarty seems to want to be loyal to his father, his father does very little to earn or to merit that loyalty.

Abner sues de Spain to have the amount he owes for the rug lessened by the court, and he is evidently unhappy with the court's decision to halve it only. When Sarty realizes what his father means to do, he runs to alert de Spain and then runs far off into the distance. He hears gunshots and seems to assume that his father is dead. Rather than return home, however, Sarty walks into the woods among the singing of the birds. He hears their "liquid silver voices" and knows that "walking would cure" his stiffness, and that the sun will soon be up. All of these descriptions and details are so positive in connotation that we can come to the conclusion that Sarty will begin anew, without his father's frightening and destructive influence.

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