Summary-Response Topic Barn Burning

The plot of Barn Burning revolves around a black tenant, his white landlord, and the black tenant’s son. The occupant had gotten into a dispute with the landlord. The tenant seemed to be unable to regain ownership of his hog. It had ruined crops to the point that the landlord was forced to provide materials to the tenant (Sarty’s father) in order for him to erect a fence. He did not do so, and the hog reappeared to create even more mayhem. Infuriated, the landlord requested a dollar before returning the hog to the occupant. The tenant sent another person to deliver the dollar, and a warning that hay and wood can burn, possibly referring to the barn which was made of wood and was used to store hay.

Sarty’s father was subsequently arrested for arson and arraigned in court. The landlord did not have any witnesses, apart from Sarty, who was unable to testify due to the strong loyalty he had towards his family. As a result, the family was banished from the country since Sarty’s father could not be jailed owing to lack of sufficient evidence. Sarty’s father is sure of his son’s will to do the right thing. However, this to him is a betrayal since it would point him out to be the arson burning barns. He therefore undertakes to punish his son, who had willed himself to lie in court to save his father, only because he felt loyal to him.

At the de Spain mansion, Sarty’s heart goes out to his father after seeing the way his master treats him. This only confuses him further since he has decided that under no way will he be an accomplice in the burning of another barn. Therefore, when his father decided to burn another barn to avenge for his suffering, he tells on him and flees. While he is sad that he has reported his father for his crimes, it is also clear that he has made a decision on his life. He has found it impossible to continue lying because this will make him an accomplice. He mourns his father, with the realization that he will now chart a new future for himself. .


The issues which were surrounding Sartyy and his family are typical of the period after war in the South. The slaves were now free and could work for themselves. However, they were under a highly prejudiced system which made them barely better than how they had been. Every aspect of the system was biased against them. It was therefore for this reason that Sarty and his family were banished from the county even though the court had not found any evidence to suggest that the tenant had burnt the barn.

The whole story is made up of terms that are derogatory for African Americans. For instance, the landlord refers to the tenant as a nigger boy, and other terms that would not be used to address a white man. All this is indicative of the high prejudice that exists in the story against Sarty and people of his color. It is therefore more remarkable that despite these things, Sarty still finds it possible to speak the truth. The conditions that he and his people have been put under are not comfortable. Bitterness is seething form everyone, including his father, who is quick to burn a barn because he has been punished for something he had done.

It is possible that in an environment as poisoned as this one, it is hard to be objective. This lack of objectivity is clear in the way he judge handles down his sentence, the fact that he has not found any fault with Sarty’s father notwithstanding. At the same time, it is clear that people are not ready to follow the decision of the court, especially when it does not give the right decisions in their opinion. This means that the justice system is not meant to deliver justice, but only act as a means to an end.

While these things are happening, Sarty is only 10 years old. He has been exposed to a life in which justice is scarce, and he has no one to protect him. He however has a strong personality, a belief in the truth and what is right, with the author implying that he will be okay.


Sarty is caught up in an unfortunate chain of events that he at first tries to control. He finds that this will not be possible, and therefore decides to follow his heart and tell the truth.

The issues at play aim to show that regardless of the prevailing circumstances. A person should always try to do the right thing. If a 10 – year old boy who has lived in such difficult circumstances can do it, then everyone else should.

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