Barn Burning: Overview

Last Updated: 27 May 2020
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Antonio Webb Professor Debra Germany English 2336 14 November 2012 Barn Burning In “Barn Burning”, a short story by William Faulkner, a boy finds that he can no longer be governed by his father’s ideas and tries to prevent his father from doing further harm, and leaves his family in the process. Sarty Snopes desire is to break away from the moral deficiency of his family life and live life with some resemblance of normalcy even at the expense of never seeing his family again.

A growing body of evidence, suggest that humans have a moral sense from the very start of life and family does not instill this moral compass from the very start of life. His father was a man of little or no education who had developed an attitude in life of catering to no one but himself even at the expense of his family. The story begins with Mr. Snopes on trial for burning a neighbor’s barn after sending a black man over for his hog and actually warning the man that hay and wood burn.

Shortly afterwards the neighbor’s barn burned and the story begins in a court of the Justice of the Peace. Sarty, is remembering all this and the details of the court room which was actually a storeroom in a grocery store. The man whose barn was burned asks that the boy testify and the judge is hesitant as this was not proper protocol in that time. The man says the boy does not have to testify and the case is dismissed due to lack of witnesses. The boy says he would have had to tell the truth had he been forced to testify even though he has a very real fear of his father.

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The father actually hits the boy who had defended the family honor by fighting someone in the crowd calling them barn burners. The father knows the boy would have testified and he tells him that they have to stand together against the world. This is obviously a common occurrence in the young mans life and always ends up the same, they are told to move on and never come back. They all gather in their wagon and leave, the wife, her twin sister, his two sisters, and his older brother. They all are afraid of the father and dare not question him or his authority.

The central theme of the story begins with the last move when the family moves onto property owned by a Major De Spain and take up residence in a tenant farm house belonging to the major. The boy and the father ride over to the Majors house which is larger than anything the boy had seen in his life he compared the house to the courthouse. As they approach the door the father steps in a large pile of horse manure. The black man at the door tells the father to wipe his feet before coming in and also announces that Major De Spain is not home.

The father forces the door open and enters the home, leaving a path of mud on the rug which turns out to be an expensive rug from France. When the Major returns home and discovers the condition of the carpet he rolls it up and takes it to the Snopes residence where he instructs the father to clean it and return it as it was. The father makes the boys and the two sisters, clean the rug and then returns it to the Major. The Major tells Mr. Snopes that he will have to pay twenty bushels out of his labor to pay for the rug. Mr. Snopes takes the Major to court to have his payment overturned.

Mr. Snopes thinking that washing it would be sufficient finds out that it is not. The judge shows some leniency reducing the payment to ten bushels of corn and five dollars. The father is not happy with this and decides once again to burn the Majors barn as he orders his son to get the kerosene against his wife’s wishes who says at least send a black man again like you did before. The young boy who by now has decided in his heart that this cannot go on and is restrained by his mother even though the father wants to physically tie him to his bed so he cant warn the Major.

The father by now has headed towards the Majors house. The boy breaks away from his mother and heads for the Majors house on foot, arriving there he warns the household about their barn and then runs out the door not knowing where he is headed. The Major rides by him on his horse and somewhere up ahead the boy hears a shot and then two more. The constellations wheeled on. It would be dawn and them sun-up after a while and he would be hungry, But that would be to-morrow and now he was only cold, and walking would cure that.

His breathing was easier asleep because he knew it was almost dawn, the night almost over. He could tell that from the whippoorwills. They were everywhere now among the dark trees below them. He got up. He was a little stiff, but walking would cure that too as it would the cold, and soon there would be the sun. He went on down the hill, toward the dark woods within which the liquid silver voices of the birds called unceasing –the rapid and urgent beating of the urgent and quiring heart of the late spring night. He did not look back. Baym,Nina) He knows that his father is torn between love and righteousness and feels sorrow for his father but knows in his heart he can longer live this way of life. While the story never mentions his age, Barn Burning is a sad story of a young mans life who knew what was right and wrong and does what has to be done in the end as conscious would not allow him to continue with his fathers way of life. However this story illustrates how morality is not developed within the family, but something that is instilled within us all in the first early years of life.

By the age of six months babies have already developed a strong moral code, according to psychologist. They may be barely able to sit up, let alone take their steps, crawl or talk, but researchers say they can still tell the difference between good and evil. An astonishing series of experiments is challenging the view that human beings are born as “blank slates” – and that our morality is shaped by our experiences. Instead, they suggest that concepts of good and bad may be hard-wired into the brain at birth.

In one experiment involving puppets, six-month-old babies showed a strong preference for good helpful characters-and rejected unhelpful, “naughty” puppet, some babies went further- and dished out their own punishment with a smack on its head Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in Connecticut, whose department has studied morality in babies for years, said: A growing body of evidence suggest that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. You can see some glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral felling even in the first year of life. Some sense of ood and evil seems to be bred in the bones. In one experiment involving puppets, six-month old babies showed a strong preference for “good” helpful characters- and rejected unhelpful, “naughty” ones. In another, when asked to take away treats from a “naughty” puppet, some babies went further—and dished out their own punishment with a smack on its head. (Derbyshire, David) Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in Connecticut, whose department has studied morality in babies for years, said “A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.

You can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bones” Which is not to say that parents are wrong to concern themselves with moral development or that interactions with their children are a waste of time? Socialization is critically important. But this is not because babies are young children lack a sense of right and wrong; it’s because the sense of sense of right and wrong that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be, Dr Nadia Reissland, of Durham University, said babies start to learn he difference between good and bad from birth. “Everything hinges on who decides what is normal”, she said. (Derbyshire, David) Infants fall into the preconvention level of moral development according to the theories of Lawrence Kohlberg. This involves two orientations: punishment and pleasure seeking. Infants respond to their environment primarily to seek pleasure and meet their needs. They show joy by smiling, cooing and laughing when they are fed, comfortable and feeling safe. As they grow, they learn to make choices in response to punishment, such as being told no or having an object taken from them.

Meeting an infant’s basic needs through consistent care and positive social interactions simultaneously nurtures their moral development and trust in their caregivers. (Smith-Vratny, Lisa) Two noteworthy individuals, Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, studied the moral development of children. Piaget looked at how children develop moral reasoning. He found that Two noteworthy individuals, Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, studied the moral development of children. Piaget looked at how children develop moral reasoning. He found that young children have a much more primitive understanding of right and wrong behavior than do older children.

Piaget determined that younger children judge bad behavior by the amount of damage caused by a person’s behavior. He would tell children a story with a moral dilemma. He would ask them to tell him “who is naughtier” a boy who accidentally broke fifteen cups or a boy breaks one cup trying to reach a jam jar when his mother is not around. Younger children attributed the “naughty” behavior to the boy who broke the most cups regardless of the other child’s intent. A huge amount of growth and physical development occurs during the first years of a baby’s life.

These early stages of development are critical in laying the foundation for the baby’s future. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the normal development milestones for a baby, and how to encourage his or her learning and behavior. (Huxley, Ron) In conclusion the Snopes family lack of morality clearly influenced Sarty this is evident in the beginning of the story when the boy is willing to lie to insure that his father is acquitted of any wrong doing but somewhere along the way he could no longer contribute to their way of life.

Somewhere along the way Sarty realizes everything the family is doing is wrong and its hurting peoples lives. The research indicates that you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling in the first year of life, what happen to the Snopes family along the way that the son would have more moral judgment than the family. This illustrates that family can only develop morality or withdraw away from it; essentially good and evil is something that seems to be bred in the bones. Works Cited Derbyshire, David http://www. ailymail. co. uk/news/article-1275892/Were-born-moral- Babies-tell-good-evil- months. html Bloom, Paul http://www. nytimes. com/2010/05/09/magazine/09babies- t. html? pagewanted=all&_r=0 Smith-Vratny Lisa  http://www. livestrong. com/article/180598-moral-social-development-in- infants/#ixzz2C9gL5co8 Smith, Peter  http://www. lifesitenews. com/news/archive//ldn/2010/may/10051009 http://www. essentialbaby. com. au/baby/baby-stages-of-development/the-moral-life-of-babies- 20100513-v0u0. html Huxley, Ron http://www. christian-mommies. om/ageless/handle-emotions/moral-development-of-children- knowing-right-from-wrong/ Sigelman and Elizabeth A. Rider. Life-Span Human Development. California: Wadsworth, 2003. Caroll E. Izard. Measuring Emotions in Infants and Children. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. What to Expect the First Year. Sydney: Harper Collins, 2009. Jean Piaget. The Origins of Intelligence in Children. New York: International University Press, 1952. Gillies, Christine http://suite101. com/article/the-developmental-milestones- f-a-baby-a314799 Baym, Nina, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Vol. C,D, and E (a three- volume set) 8th ed. New York:Norton, 2012 http://www. childrensmoraldevelopment. com/index. html Bersoff, David M. and Joan G. Miller. "Culture, Context, and the Development of Moral Accountability Judgments. " Developmental Psychology29, no. 4 (July 1993): 664–77. Schulman, Michael, and Eva Mekler. Bringing Up a MoralChild: A New Approach for Teaching Your Child to BeKind, Just, and Responsible. rev. ed. New York: Main Street Books/Doubleday, 1994.

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Barn Burning: Overview. (2017, Jun 29). Retrieved from

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