Importance of Class in Faulkner's "Barn Burning"

Topics: Barn Burning, Morality, William Faulkner Pages: 2 (699 words) Published: July 15, 2012
In William Faulkner's short story "Barn Burning," class is a major part of the setting that gives us a better understanding of the background of Sarty's struggle with issues of morality. The Snopes family lives in a post-Civil War South. They are sharecroppers, which puts them at the bottom of socio-economic totem pole, since they do not own land, and can only rent it. The only group of people positioned lower than them are the blacks, and after they were freed from slavery, by necessity they had to compete for work with the white sharecroppers - a fact that Abner Snopes resented with passion. The Snopeses are very poor. We see it in the opening scene, in the way Sarty's pants are too small for him, he is hungry, and he can't read. The way they speak also shows lack of education and low status. Their meager belongings fit on a mule wagon and include “the battered stove, the broken beds and chairs…” (86) Their lodgings are also nowhere near adequate for such a big family, but they have no choice other than accepting what their landlord provides. Abner Snopes is a very angry man. He perceives the world as a constant conflict between “us” (the family) and “them” (the higher classes). Abner resents the position he is in, and blames all of the people who have what he doesn’t for it. His feelings are best shown when he explained to his wife why he is going to see Major de Spain : “I reckon I’ll have a word with the man that aims to begin tomorrow owning me body and soul for the next eight months.” (87) It would seem that Abner’s problem with higher classes arises mostly to the fact that he is being oppressed by the wealthy, stuck in his rut and that there is no way out for him. Unfortunately, Abner does not even try to improve his lot in life. His situation is complicated by his lack of moral compass and his psychological issues. We are told that Abner participated in the Civil War, but he did not fight for his ideals, or freedom, or any such goal: “[he] had gone to...
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