‘Barn Burning’, William Faulkner (short story)

Faukners Typewriter

A story about dictatorship, in this case one which occurs within the family, and a young boy so entirely in the power of his father that he cannot speak the truth. The child’s struggle is partially understood by one or two others outside of his family, including a wise and compassionate local judge who, by example, helps the boy to make a psychological break with his terrifying parent.

Spoiler alert:

When the child finally speaks up, it is to save others from his father, and this crucial moment involves the boy literally fleeing for his life. He has also quite possibly caused his father’s death, indirectly at least.

Faulkner, with his genius for understanding what it is to be human, gently teases out the boy’s conflicted love for his father. It is Faulkner’s accomplishment that we are running alongside the boy as he flees, shivering with him in the cold when he hides. Even turning with him toward his incorrigible father, seeing that man for the last time. Faulkner never tells us it will be easy, even at the end. We must feel the child’s grief as much as we can feel that he’s free now.

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Jo Ely

Described as "an intelligent, creative, imaginative, original writer" by Guardian Book of the Year author Trevor Byrne, Jo Ely has been Shortlisted for the Fish International Short Story Prize and has had a short story selected for an anthology edited by New York Times Notable Book of the Year author Sandra Tyler (Woven Tale Press, US ed. 2016). Jo has published short stories, children's books and written interviews with writers for the Woven Tale Press. She also reviews for the world's first online Empathy Library. 'Stone Seeds' is Jo's first novel, published by Urbane Publications (Amazon.co.uk).

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