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Barn Burning

Barn Burning

by William Faulkner

Justice and Judgment Theme

The fact that there are two courtroom scenes in this rather short story, quickly alerts us to its theme of justice and judgment. "Barn Burning" features a variety of perspectives on justice, and shows how the process of legal justice isn't always just. For Sarty Snopes, the ten-year-old star of this show, justice has to do with not lying and not hurting others. His father, on the other hand seems out to punish the whole world for the massive injustices it has practiced upon him. Like young Sarty, the reader is called on to judge father Snopes. Will we judge him to harshly? Not harshly enough? Some readers find this the most challenging part of reading "Barn Burning."

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. Does Sarty have a responsibility to lie to protect his father? Why or why not?
  2. What do you think of the Justices of the Peace? Are they similar or different from one another? Are they fair, corrupt, or blind to justice? Why do you feel the way you do?
  3. Does the legal system of justice, as presented in the story, work for or against Abner?
  4. How do you judge Sarty's mother?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The first Justice of the Peace violates principles of law by ordering Abner to leave town even though he finds him not guilty.

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