Barn Burning And Sonny

’s Blues Essay, Research Paper

In the story Barn Burning by William Faulkner, it was obvious that the character of young Colonel Sartoris Snopes, or Sarty, would end up either running away from home to escape his father, or stay and become the same type of man that his farther was. In many ways, he was more mature and grown up than his father, who may have been mentally ill, suffering from depression. Depression derived from being considered white trash and the connotations that go along with that title.

In the courtroom scene at the beginning of the story, we see that while Sarty is very proud of his father, he also feels protective of him as if their roles were reversed. This includes lying to a judge in a court of law as seen in the next thought of Sarty, He aims for me to lie…, and I will have to do hit. Sarty is willing to put his own honesty on the line to help his father Abner. It is not until the Snopes leave the area that the audience is made aware of Sarty s distaste of his father s actions.

Soon though, when the trial is over and the family is on the wagon leaving the town from which they had been banished, Sarty says to himself, Maybe he s done satisfied now, now that he has… He now begins to see that perhaps his father is not so perfect and just, and begins to question his father and his foolish actions. When the family arrives at the doors to their next home, Sarty is very optimistic about their new situation and thinks of his father, Maybe he will feel it too. Maybe it will even change him now from what maybe he couldn t help but be. Now, rather than feeling proud of his father for what he is, Sarty shows that he wants Abner to change. Sarty perhaps event pities his father for not being able to control himself, much as a parent would do with a wayward son.

Despite all the feelings Sarty has of his father and the wrongdoings, Sarty still obeys him. This is evident when Sarty is getting the oil for his father, and questions what he is doing. He thinks to himself as he is running to the stable, I could keep on…I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again. Only I can t. I can t. That was the turning point for Sarty; it was the final time he shows any respect for his father. In addition, it was the first time he contemplates fleeing from his father.

In the final scene of the story, after he gets away from his mother, he runs to warn Major de Spain of the impending doom, thus crossing his father and showing that he has lost all respect for him. It also shows how much he himself has changed, and how much he disapproves of the unjustified torching of yet another barn. With the last torching Sarty decides to run. Only when two shots are heard in the distance, does Sarty pause to briefly to cry out for his doomed father. He then begins on his way for a new life, one without the fear of his father and threat of arson, and without knowing the outcome of his family s fate.

If indeed his father was suffering from a mental condition such as depression, (and if this story had been set in the present day 1930 s when it was written), then there might have been another possible ending. However to give the story a happy ending by having the father repent and become a model citizen would have been cheating the reader, and the author. It is doubtful that we the audience would still be reading this story some 62 years after it was written if the ending were a happy one.

Another story involving alienation is Sonny s Blues, by James Baldwin. This is a story about the past and present lives of two brothers. Sonny s brother, whose name is never mentioned, tells the story in first person. The narrator begins with the event of his brother being caught in a raid for using heroin. The significance of this event triggers many memories and emotions for the narrator and his brother.

The narrator tells many stories from, the place they grew up, the death of their parents, and how they parted which explains a little of why they didn’t communicate so well. Through these glimpses at the past, I was able to see the theme of the story. The narrator described the two brothers riding in a cab to take Sonny to his home. He says, it came to me that what we both were seeking through our separate cab windows was that part of ourselves which had been left behind”. I think that the story revolves around this thought because both of these characters want to retrieve some of their past to maybe help them cope with what has happened in their lives and try to find a way to go on.

At the end of the story, they seem to find a common bond through Sonny’s music. This is a bit ironic because never before did Sonny’s brother ever have an interest for his music. At this last event all the pieces come together or both of them. For one, through the music all the pain that they had felt like the death of Grace and Sonny’s addiction, came out. For once, the narrator really gets into Sonny’s world and in return, Sonny’s brother comes to an understanding. Through Sonny playing the blues, the narrator comes to an understanding of what has happened in Sonny’s life and his own.

The narrator in Sonny’s Blues feels that if he does not make sure that Sonny has a good life and gets an education, that he has failed his mother wishes in some way. Sonny does not always see things the same way his older brother does and he uses his music as a means of survival and success whereas his older brother thinks that having a more traditional job (like as a teacher) and taking care of his family is the way to led a more successful life.

I think what Baldwin is trying to say here is that we all have the same feelings in life (happiness, sadness,) but the way that we look at those feelings are what make us different from each other. We want to be heard and understood and accepted by our family. This is the struggle that is ongoing throughout the story, where the narrator is attempting to understand, which he finally does in the end through the very thing that Sonny loves, his music.


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