Colonel Sartoris Snopes, who is called "Sarty" by his family, is a major character in William Faulkner's "Barn Burning." This young boy of about ten finds himself in the position of being expected to lie to protect his father from punishment for burning the neighbor's barn. Sarty's character in "Barn Burning" is a study of the physical and spiritual relationships between a father and son that are born out in the reality of truth versus lies as evidenced in Sarty's Personal integrity.
In "Barn Burning" Faulkner writes about the relationship between a father and his son in both the hereditary and the spiritual sense. Sarty early in the story respects his father because of his father's service in the military and the clannish code found in southern families without regard to social status. The young boy was not really aware of his father's good or bad qualities or of the complexities of his father's behavior. He was aware that his father was facing a court.
He was not yet openly aware of the way he really felt about his father's activities and the fact that he might have to dispute his father's word in effect overthrow customary behavior, hereditary codes, and family ties. Sarty felt an innate loyalty to the clan (family) and at the same time realizes that his father aims for him to lie and that he would have to do it to maintain the familial bond. Sarty had hoped that the series of family moves from farm to farm and new beginnings would change his father only to realize that the cycle would continue to repeat itself. His father relied on complicity of the entire Snopes clan for support and security. He depended on the clan for protection from society at large.
In reality Sarty had a sense of right and wrong and having to lie for his father places him in great conflict. He was far too young to understand his father and the complexities of the moral choice he must make. In breaking the code, Sarty is freed from the nightmare to which he has been subjected.