What do the father-son relationships in "Great Falls" and "Barn Burning" reveal about the stories?

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“Great Falls” by Richard Ford and “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner both feature father-son relationships that are troubled in some way. Let’s look at this in more detail to get you started on this assignment.

In “Great Falls,” the narrator, Jackie, is fourteen, and he goes along with his father on hunting and fishing trips. They never seem to talk much to each other, but there is a camaraderie of sorts between them. Jackie is young, and he does not think very deeply. To him, it is important to simply be included by his father. He never thinks how his father’s actions affect his mother. Jackie does not understand completely what happens between his father and mother on the night when his father catches another man in the house. Jackie’s mother leaves, and he and his father never discuss the matter. Their relationship is quite shallow, built on shared activities but not on any kind of conversation or real sharing. Jackie grows up with many unanswered questions, and he is not even sure there are answers to them.

In “Barn Burning,” Sartoris Snopes has a more difficult relationship with his father, Abner. Abner has a bad habit of burning down people’s barns when he has a grudge against them, and he expects his sons to loyally support him in his acts. Sarty’s brother, John, follows their father’s lead, but Sarty struggles with it. His father expects him to lie, and this makes Sarty extremely uncomfortable. Sarty’s father takes him to the home of Major de Spain, whom Abner will work for. Abner deliberately and maliciously ruins an expensive rug, and the Major takes him to court. The judge rules against Abner, and Abner decides to burn down the major’s barn as revenge. He expects Sarty to help him, but Sarty cannot do it. Instead, he breaks free and runs off to warn the major, knowing that he has severed the relationship between himself and his father permanently.

We can see, then, that the relationships that the young men in the stories have with their fathers deeply affect their lives, and both authors wish to show the significance of this.

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