English 1020 Section C07
11 February 2012
A Marxist Criticism of “Barn Burning”
“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary their social being that determines their consciousness.” (Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy). Marx believed that being born in one social class determined one's thoughts and actions. Marx also was adamant that conflict was caused by the division of labor. In “Barn Burning” by Falkner, both of these beliefs were especially prevalent in the differences between Abner Snopes and Major de Spain. “Barn Burning” showcases Colonel Sartoris Snopes’s ("Sarty") break with his father’s beliefs on how best to deal with the class inequality. “Barn Burning” is a classic demonstration of the economic and political power struggle between the bourgeoisie, the justice system and the wealthy plantation owner, and the proletariat, the Snopes.
Abner Snopes was born before the Civil war, into a poor, proletariat, family; Major de Spain was born around the same time, perhaps earlier, into a wealthy, bourgeoisie, family. Despite their similarities (around the same age, both having families, both Southern), their mind sets could not have been much different, due to their very different births. Abner, a one-time horse thief, is unrefined almost animalistic. Though Abner tries to show off his power to other proletariats, he becomes powerless in the presence of bourgeoisie. This happens at the beginning of the story in the courtroom. Abner is silent until the verdict is read, showing his lack of voice in the political process as a whole. He does not believe that he can gain power through word-- just by destroying. When Abner says, "I reckon I'll have a word with the man that aims to begin to-morrow owning me body and soul for the next eight months.” he shows his knowledge of his powerlessness. Abner’s acceptance demonstrates that he has been fully indoctrinated into...
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