Social Class In William Faulkner's Barn Burning

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William Faulkner’s 1939 short story, “Barn Burning,” is a powerful narrative about a southern tenant farmer, Abner Snopes, and his family soon after the Civil War. The story opens in a town store, which also serves as the courthouse, with Mr. Snopes on trial for burning down another townsman's barn. The justice banishes the Snopes family from the town, sending them on their way to work for yet another plantation owner (Faulkner 480-481). Throughout Faulkner’s story, Abner Snopes represents the proletarian white class that lost all social standing in the South after the Civil War, including their superiority to African American Slaves. The frustration of Snopes drives him to commit deranged actions which in turn reinforce the bourgeois’ negative assumptions towards the lower white class. Mr. Snopes…show more content…
After the first barn burning incident, Abner then goes on to deliberately step “in a pile of fresh droppings where a horse had stood” and smear his shoes on the plantation owner’s beautiful rug from France (Faulkner). These deranged actions stem from his oppression and symbolize his personal acts of rebellion against this class system that has ruined his family’s quality of life. In Marxist theory, “the continuing conflict” between the bourgeois and proletarian classes “[leads] to upheaval and revolution by oppressed peoples” (Brizee et. al). Faulkner demonstrates the truth in this statement by Abner’s burning of the barn and dictating actions towards his family. If Mr. Snopes had ownership of his own life, there would be no need for him to act out. Abner’s actions are directly dependent on his value in society; his socioeconomic status became the “ultimate source of [his] experience” (Brizee et. al). The consequence of this oppression is a revolution, and in this case, the barn burning of white plantation
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