THE BARN BURNER

By Patricia Willis

THEME ONE: BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE

It's 1933 the time of the Great Depression. Ross Cooper a young 14 year old boy finds himself in a hopeless path to nowhere. He got into a fight with his abusive father and then was kicked out of the house by his mother. He will never forget those last words she said to him, "Get out of my sight". As the young boy ventures out on to the road he realizes that all of the things he had at home like food and water are no longer available to him. He goes days and nights with out food or a place to stay.


Then one night he finds a barn to sleep in, but in the middle of the night he wakes up with blazing fire all around him. He runs to get out of the barn and catches a glimpse of a short man who had just set the barn on fire. When he ran out the man had disappeared. When he looked back he saw the property owner chasing after him thinking Ross was the person responsible for burning his barn down. Now Ross was a wanted fugitive and no longer had his freedom. As he was fleeing out of town Ross found a family trying to move into a new house. Their father was in another state working for the family. That first night that the mother named Mary let him eat with them, he was over whelmed by the leisure's that he could have. He hadn't had a bath for over three weeks, and hadn't had a meal for days. All he kept saying was how grateful he was to finally have a roof over his head and food in his stomach.


Ross made arrangements with the family to stay and help just for a little while. Ross eventually found work in a brick making factory. He looks at all of the men working there and realizes how lucky he is to have Mary and the family taking care of him. Most of the men there are trying to provide for their families and they have nothing to eat at all. As the book progresses you see a man named Johnny who becomes relatively good friends with Ross. At the end of the book you find out that this man was the barn burner and he did all of these horrible things because he was greedy. He wanted more money or food from the people that he worked for and whom ever did not give him the full price of their bargain he burned down their property. At the end Ross says that if Johnny would have just been grateful he wouldn't have been a fugitive. He had to flea the valley leaving behind the reason he did all of these things, for his family. Johnny will never be able to support or see them again and if he would have just been grateful I am sure they would have scraped by just like Ross's family did.

THEME TWO: FAMILY MEANS EVERYTHING

In this book the word family just keeps coming up. As Ross leaves his family back home and ventures out on the road he realizes that family means everything. He starts to miss his mother and siblings. He misses not having to worry about where he is going to stay the night, and he misses the love that he use to get. Then he finds a new family while on the road named the Warfields. They start to become his rock and foundation. He once again sees that family is everything. He spends the next couple weeks with them and they practically adopt him. He sees the whole community working and giving up their freedoms for their families. The man I talked about early in the first theme named Johnny did exactly this. He became a criminal because he was trying to provide for his family but got a little to greedy.


While walking home from the factory one day Ross met a man named Summer. He was a crazy kooky old man who saw all the joys in life. The man had gotten sick a long time ago with a horrible disease but he got better. Just as he got better his wife and kids got sick and died. He now realizes how much family really means and he helps Ross realize how much he should care for his family. Mary the mother of the Warfields keeps enforcing that the whole family needs to stick together and that Ross should go back home. Though his mother said some cruel words Ross finally realizes that she said them just to protect him from his father who had been abusing both him and his mother. His mother never really wanted him to leave but she knew that at that given moment if Ross didn't leave for a little while the father would do something horrible. She really loved him and new how important he was to her. She must feel horrible knowing that she hurt her son so much that he ran away from home. When all she was trying to do was protect him.

HOW THE THEMES RELATE...

These themes relate in so many ways. First the book talks a lot about both of these subjects almost as if they are two sub themes of an ultimate theme that you should never take your family for granted and be grateful for them. Ross wasn't grateful for his family in the beginning of the book but he finally realized how important they were in the end and that he should never take for granted the gift of family. This also goes very well with the man Johnny. If he would of just been grateful for having his family and not greedy for money he would have had a better life. Mary was so grateful for her family that see realized how much Ross's mother must have missed him. As a mother she knew that his mother was grateful for Ross and she never wanted him to leave. The person who knows this most of all is Summer. He had a deep appreciation for family. You never know how much you miss something till it's gone. This overly used quote is a perfect way to describe how Summer found his deep appreciation for family.