From an Ordinary Snopes to a Social Being—An Interpretation of “Barn Burning” from the Perspective of Ethical Literary Criticism

Hu Xinye


“Barn Burning” is one of the most well-known short stories written by William Faulkner. The story tells about the struggle and final choice of a boy, Sarty, when he faced his father’s tyrannous way to vent his anger and cope with conflicts. This paper uses ethical literary criticism to interpret the growth of Sarty from an ordinary Snopes to a social being from four aspects — ethical environment, ethical identity, ethical choice, and ethical consciousness, hoping that readers can read the text historically and critically, understand the dilemma Sarty faced, discover his greatness in choosing reason instead of being engulfed by animal nature, as well as gain some ethical enlightenments.

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