Through the eyes of a child
In William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” Faulkner has chosen to tell his story through the point of view of a small boy, Sartoris Snopes. By choosing Sartoris’ viewpoint , Faulker has enabled the one person who was both closely affected by Abner’s behavior and had the power to do something about it. It’s not unusual to tell a story from a child’s point of view, but on the surface this would not seem to be a child’s story, and even from the first page of the story Sartoris is a victim of his fathers actions. Thus, by choosing Sartoris instead of Abner the author has brought in a different narrator, which makes the reader see things in a different way.
At the beginning of the story, Sartoris shows that he has respects for his father because that is what is expected by a child towards a parent. Since Sartoris needs to obey Abner’s every “command” he has also become fearful towards him. Had Sartoris actually been called on to testify against his father, he would have lied to protect his father. Sartoris has always known that his father burns barns. It is as much a part of Abner’s personality as striking his children or humiliating his wife or dragging his family from one shabby farm to another. Sartoris’ moral values are not awakened because he suddenly and spontaneously realizes that his father is a wrong doing man. Instead, Sartoris has undergone a type of spiritual revelation when he first sees Major de Spain’s plantation. He feels that the residents of this lovely home are safe from his father. As Sartoris states on paragraph fourty, People whose lives are a part of this peace and dignity are behind his touch, he no more to them than a buzzing wasp: capable of stinging for a little moment but that’s all; the spell of this peace and dignity rendering even the barns and stable and cribs which belong to it impervious to the puny flames he might contrive . For the first time in the story Sartoris has described beauty, elegance, and grace, and recognizes these qualities as being new and of a spiritual encounter. They strike a positive attitude in him, and he will never be the same. When Sartoris bursts into the de Spains’ living room and informs them that his father is going to burn down the Major’s barn, he has made a moral decision against his father. He has realized that his father was wrong when he said that “You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you.” What Sartoris has to stick to is his selfhood, his new knowledge of who he is and who he wants to be.
If the story was to be told by Abner it would have had no conflict, because Abner has no real emotions. Abner’s coat seem to have more description then he did. For one, Abner is not thoughtful, understanding, or the least bit analytical. He does not anticipate his actions and he shows no remorse towards them. His behavior comes straight from his gut, like the mules he owns. All Abner has is reflexes and needs, but that’s all. He just does whatever he feels the need to do and does it, without explanation or anything. His family might as well be his mules and have no say in actions if Abner was the narrator. He might have wanted to give some explanation for his doing but they would have been irrelevant. In addition if it were told by him it would have made the reader think that his actions were humorous. That “they” were bandits and heathens. When he drove away from the blazing barns we might have pictured the family rooting on the father, or something of that sort. They would have been just like him “mules”, witout reason for their actions.
No other point of view but Sartoris’ could have told this story so effectively and so movingly. We not only saw his reactions towards his father but we also heard the mother speak out. Abner would of never let anyone even stir up any kind of emotion. They would of all been guilty for the burnings instead of being victims. In Abner’s point of view it would have been a story of anger and rage without justification; from Sartoris’ point of view it is a story of courage.