The questions of loyalty to family and accountability to one’s self seem to blaze into a conflagration within Sarty. The heat tempers the young man, allowing him to be molded into a far greater man that Abner ever seemed capable. Sarty never seemed to have the same blood coursing through his veins, and his father knew it. The boy seemed to be itching for a chance to sell out his blood. Sarty, in his transition from a boy to a man, escaped the bonds his father attempted to place on him. These bonds would have become shackles, locking Sarty into the same cage of malcontent for authority that his father seemed trapped. In every way he could, the boy sold out his blood.
Abner would not even look at Sarty as the boy approached the Justice to give his testimony. The father had his doubts about his son’s loyalty to the family. Abner later states, “You would have told him”. Sarty did not want to lie for his father, and no son should be put in that situation by their parent. The Justice realizes what a horrible situation this put the boy in, and sends him away without a word spoken. Sarty is stricken with “frantic grief and despair”, but Faulker’s words seem to suggest that he would lie. Although, he would “have to do hit”, he was not happy about it.
Abner lacked faith in his son. He “struck him with the flat of his hand on the side of the head” and stated that Sarty was “getting to be a man”. Abner wanted his son “to learn”, and did not realize that the lessons he was teaching were not going to produce the desired results. The day in the courthouse changed Sarty, and he would not allow himself to be put in the same situation once again. As Sarty looks back on the conversation with his father some twenty years later, it is clear that he understood the wrongness of his father’s actions. This flash forward tells us much about Sarty and the blood that he chooses to turn away from.
Without the text, “If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have hit me again”, it could be argued that Sarty simply continued his father’s hatred of authority. A continued cycle of fighting and lashing out against those in positions of power is broken by a few simple lines of text. Sarty is not turning against his father because he despises being under that rule. He goes against his own blood because it is the right and just thing to do. Sarty’s panicked fight to get away from his family in an attempt to warn De Spain, parallels nicely with his inner struggle to flee from the blood bonds that seek to drown out his ability to see the truth. Luckily, given the lines from his future perspective, it is clear that Sarty does not succumb to the embitterment. Not only does Sarty break free, but it seems that his bravery starts to inspire another member of his family. His aunt states, “If he don’t go, before God, I am going up there myself.” Unlike Sarty, the aunt never gives legs to her claims.
At the end of the story, after gunshots are fired and Sarty believes that his actions have killed his father, he still has his back to his old home as he stares into the darkness of the unknown before him. The memory of his father, albeit incorrect, is much easier to admire than the cold and calculated villain that Abner was in reality. “Breathing was easier now” for Sarty. He no longer had to run. “The rapid and urgent beating of the urgent and quiring heart” was pushing blood through his veins, and he could create for himself a new bloodline in which truth and justice did not conflict with family bonds.
Faulkner, William. “Barn Burning”. Global Crossroads. Ed. Louis Iglesias. New York:
Fountainhead Press, 2007. Pages 337-353.