Faulkner`s Stricture of the Society

Faulkner’sStricture of the Society


Faulknerpresents his ideas about the failure of the society to enact rulesfor encouraging the equal distribution of resources. He criticizesthe Southern community for introducing the classes of the poor,landowners and the blacks. The rich enjoys an array of privileges,including, good housing, food, and access to justice. Abner, asharecropper, is dissatisfied with the reality of socialstratification. He burns his masters’ stores resulting into severepunishments for him and his family. The community fails to introduceuniform standards of behavior. The families struggle betweenPuritanism and paternalism. When the loyalty to the family surpassesthe dedication to the law, the society is at risk of conflict. Thehuman behavior, as illustrated by Faulkner, tends to be destructiveto the things that they cannot achieve. The author also denigratesthe role of the small units in a setting to orient their children toa desirable behavior. Abner tries to instill animosity towards therich in his son. He constantly reminds him of their infraction andexploitation of the rich towards the poor. Faulkner is also sensitiveof the measures that people use to achieve peace. Most of the time,the process is the cause of disunity that individuals seektirelessly. While Abner believes in vengeance, Sarty presupposes thatthe family can counter its eminent fear and feeling of uncertainty byavoiding conflicts with the masters. Sarty only feels peaceful afterhis father’s death since he is certain that no other barn will betorched in the name of vengeance and agitation for equality.

BarnBurningis a famous story written by William Faulkner in 1939. The account’spresentation of the issues plaguing the society after the end ofslavery and the introduction of sharecropping makes it a relevantreference for literature analysts. The author uses two characters,one accustomed to the unjust society and another one whose behaviordepends on the immediate orientation. Abner Snopes, Sarty’s father,is bitter about the social stratification caused by unequal ownershipof land and color. Although he is white, he has to lead the life of asharecropper, and he cannot enjoy the privileges set aside for theland owners. He satisfies his ill feelings by causing economic lossesto the rich. He is a serial barn burner. His family members live infear since they cannot predict his moves. He expects his son to beloyal to the family and uphold the value of revenge, an attributethat he associates with masculinity. Any expression of fear ortreachery is severely punished(Klinkowitz and Wallace, 1955).After burning Mr. Harris’ barn, the family is forced out of theregion, and they end up at De Spain’s plantation. When Abnerdecides to torch De Spain’s property, Sarty betrays him, and he isshot. Faulknerpresents the social constructs as the source of inequality, fear,betrayal, and confusion because of its capitalistic nature. It bringsout the real character of men as vengeful, bitter, anddiscriminative.

First,the society determines what is moral and unacceptable. All themembers in a setting have to follow the communally agreed behavior.However, there is always a conflict when the rules contrast withone’s values. Faulkner uses Sarty to criticize the southernsociety’s way of life and its inability to have a uniformorientation of behavior. Betrayal and truthfulness are bothconstructs of the community.In their work, TheNorton Anthology of American Literature, Klinkowitz and Wallace have compiled a list of the stories with anorth American setting. Klinkowitz is an English professor, the headof the English Faculty at University of Northern Iowa and author of acollection of short stories. Wallace is a senior director at CTYOnline at John Hopkins University. She is also the author of 9 books.According to the authors, When Abner burns MR. Harris’ barn, heends up in court, where Sarty, his son, is supposed to testifyagainst him(Klinkowitz and Wallace 1956). As a father, he does not expect his son to deviate from the familyloyalty. He is confident that his son would disagree with theaccusation facing him. He informs the lad, “You got to learn tostick to your own blood or you ain`t going to have any blood to stickto you” (Klinkowitzand Wallace 1956).Sarty is in a dilemma of whether to relay the truth and have hisfather punished, or lie to liberate him. As Faulkner outlines, Abneris extremely bitter with the ruling to have him relocate to anotherplace. He exclaims, &quotI aim to. I don`t figure to stay in acountry among people who…&quot (Klinkowitzand Wallace 1956). His unfinished sentence withholds despicable terms against thelandowners. For Sarty, living in such a society results in a constantperturbation of acting contrary to the expectation of the family andthe law.

Secondly,the society does not give him a chance to express his feelings. Allthe information he gives or withholds is controlled by thecircumstances at hand. To Sarty, justice lies in being transparent.However, the capitalist nature of the society forces him to deviate.His father’s behavior that becomes a burden to him is a result ofpast injustices perpetrated against the poor. Abner’s history inthe civil war would have granted him land and a decent life for hisfamily. However, the existence of his dependants is at the hands oflandlords whom he loathes. Since the society does not solve theinequality, its impacts are perpetuated from one generation toanother. Liuand Shi-Rong analyze the Sarty’s challenges in the story. Liu is aprofessor of English and the Dean of School of Foreign Language atHarbin Institute of Technology.Shiis a member of faculty in English Department, School of ForeignLanguages, Harbin Institute of Technology. Fromtheir point of view, although Abner’s actions depict extremism,peace cannot prevail in a society that has a sharp difference in thedistribution of resources (LIUand Shi-rong 328).Faulkner forges the life of Abner’s family to illustrate the fruitsof a community with discriminative legislations. In the south, mostof the wealthy landowners accumulated their wealth by exploiting thepoor and the slaves (Klinkowitzand Wallace 1957). When the country abolished the slave trade, sharecropping became thenew form of servitude.

Theauthor also criticizes the tendency of human beings to value loyaltyto the family as opposed to the law. Ironically, having a strongstance for a unit that threatens the law only cultivates anenvironment of hatred and intolerance in which the family cannotexist peacefully. The society, in which Sarty lives in, has erodedthe devotion for the law because the parties that conceived the lawencouraged its breaking and disrespect towards it. The rationale forthis is that the respect for people’s rights cannot exist in anenvironment dominated by racial and class discrimination. Thecommunity subjects Sarty to a challenging environment controlled bypaternalism and puritanism (LIUand Shi-rong 328).The southern society was predominantly religious. The citizensinherited the beliefs from the colonialists who introduced it for thesake of plutocracy. Paternalism also required children and otherfamily members to respect and honor the head of the family. InAbner’s family, his will is law. The societal expectationscontradict the unit’s supposition. Additionally, an individual whocreates a micro-managed group cannot evade conflicts with thecommunally outlined legislations. The situation worsens when themembers of the small controlled group cannot act contrary to theexpectation of the deviant leader.

Socialstratification is a creation of the community. As Faulkner puts it,the society in which Abner lives consists of three classes the poor,the landowners and the colored individuals. Sarty’s family movesfrom one farm to another. After the court verdict, his father cannotpay the 20 bushels of corn for soiling De Spain’s carpet. Abner israncorous to find a black manning the door to De Spain’s house.Apparently, he is doing better than him. He hurls abusive words as heforces his way into the house soiling the carpet with horse dung.Abner derogatorily addresses the black man, &quotGet out of my way,nigger” (Klinkowitzand Wallace 1958).By deliberately soiling the carpet, Abner represents the feelings ofmany people in the society to destroy the rich. It is rather ironicalsince his actions do not improve his impecunious condition. It onlyplunges him deeper into the bog of indigence. Besides, Faulknerillustrates the tendency of human beings to cause pain on others bybeing vengeful. It is incongruous for Abner to damage his master’scarpet yet expect to be a sharecropper in his farm. It appears likehe is on a mission to effectuate irritation to those who continueexploiting the disenfranchised citizens.

Parentsand guardians are responsible for forging the behavior of theirchildren and orienting them to the best practices. In the story,Faulkner indirectly criticizes Abner for reminding Sarty of theinjustices perpetrated by the landowners during the slavery and inthe civil war. He believes that his son should follow in hisfootsteps. As an innocent boy who is dissatisfied by his father’sbarbaric behavior, Sarty decides to betray his to De Spain, who endsthe strife (LIUand Shi-rong 328).The way Faulkner ends the story indicates that not all people boughtthe extremism ideology of dealing with inequality. When there is nojustice, rivalry can emanate even from with the micro-managed groupleading to an eventual failure of diabolical acts.

Peaceand dignity are among the primary goals of many individuals.Nonetheless, in achieving them, the end does not always justify themeans. Faulkner uses Sarty, his mother and aunt to criticize theviolent motives towards achieving peace. The injustices ensuing inthe society creates classes that exhibit different capacities toachieve similar services and privileges. Therefore, the methods usedto strike a balance can sometimes result in more harm than good tothe initial condition. As Faulkner puts it, Sarty`s life is engulfedwith fear, grief and despair. His father is in a continuous agitationfor dignity, recognition, and equal treatment. His ideology inclinesto the use of violence and pain infliction to make him significant inthe society (LIUand Shi-rong 331).Sarty holds that the family can live peacefully in the farms whilesharecropping. His dire need for tranquility triggers him to defy hisfather’s order to remain with his mother while he torches the barn.As Faulkner puts it, “the grief and despair now no longer terrorand fear but just grief and despair”(Klinkowitz and Wallace 1966). After his father’s death, he is at peace knowing that the familyis finally free.

Equalityand peace cannot emanate from destroying what one cannot achieve.Faulkner forges Sarty’s character to criticize Abner’sdestructive behavior. A barn houses one’s fruits of a lifelongtoil. It contains harvests, animals, farm tools, and machinery.Without them, it can be difficult to maintain a decent life. Abnerhas never owned such a barn. When he burns Harris and De Spain’sstores, he gains nothing. On the contrary, it costs his family astruggle to find another place to settle and eventually his demise.In addition, his deliberate move to step on Spain’s carpet withdung illustrates not only his bitterness towards the rich but alsohis destructive behavior. Sarty does not share in his father’ssentiments. Faulkner exploits him to indicate the result of theinability of the society to create a balance in the distribution ofresources (LIUand Shi-rong 332).

Inconclusion, Faulkner demonstrates how the social constructs give riseto inequality, fear, betrayal, and confusion when it inclines tocapitalism. He uses Abner and Sarty to outline the character of menas vengeful, bitter and discriminative. In addition, the societydetermines what is right and immoral. However, when there are no isuniform standards, conflicts erupt. Sarty is in a dilemma of eitherspeaking the truth, and have his father punished, or lying toliberate him. Either way, he is going against some construct of thesociety. Faulkner criticizes the society’s capitalistic nature. Thewealthy exploited the poor during slavery and the civil war to amassresources. He also disparages Abner’s destructive behavior.Although he is bitter, he puts his family is a state of constant fearand uncertainty. His ideology of achieving dignity and equality arepummeled by the author. The punishment that he receives after hisruinous actions only pushes his family further towards destitution.The unit’s journey towards peace and stability begins when Sartydefies Abner’s orders resulting to his death.


Klinkowitz,Jerome, and Wallace, Patricia. TheNorton Anthology of American Literature.WW Norton, 2007. Print.

LIU,Ke-dong, and Shi-rong LIN. &quotSarty’s initiation in Faulkner’s“Barn Burning.”.&quot Journalof Literature and Art Studies3.5 (2013): 327-331. Print.