Barn Burning And Bartleby The

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Barn Burning And Bartleby The Scrivener : A Testament To Society Essay, Research Paper Some interpretations of Herman Melville s Bartleby the Scrivener and William Faulkner s Barn Burning have explained these works as a testament to the individual s struggle against society. These stories highlight and illustrate the currents of social inequity and revere one s stake in their identity beyond all adversity. Both stories conflicts deal with the characters resistance to these injustices and, consequently, cause their inevitable downfall. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast Bartleby the Scrivener and Barn Burning , as they are reflections of the moral, ethical, and personal conflicts that existed at the time in which they were written. The time period in which

Barn Burning is set allows for the moral and ethical conflicts to unfold. It takes place in the late 1800 s to the early 1900 s in the rural American South. This was a time in our history during which Blacks were grossly oppressed, and where whites dominated the legal and social circles. Inequity between the races was especially notable in the American South as this was the ebb of post- Civil war America. In Barn Burning , Faulkner uses the Snopes family, a poor Black family living in the South and the deSpains, a rich white family, to illustrate the inequality that existed in contemporary society. From the onset of the story, the Snopes family was pitted against the Harrises, another rich white family. Abner Snopes (the father) was suspected of burning down a barn, and a lawman

was questioning both Abner and his son Sarty about the incident. Both the landowner and lawman are symbols of white dominance. The engagement of these two parties in a legal conflict are representative of prevalent moral conflicts in society at the time William Faulkner lived. Benjamin DeMott describes the perception of Abner Snopes toward the rich deSpains and Harris families as a product of his ignorance and brutality in the Article Abner Snopes as a Victim of Class (DeMott 2). Abner is a product of oppression and inequality. It would be reasonable to say that DeMott s assessment of the Snopes family is a testament to Faulkner s grasp on social ills. Abner Snopes did burn the barn down, and made his son lie to the law about it to protect himself. Yet Faulkner allows Abner to be

the victim. As stated by Mary Ellen Byrne in Barn Burning: a story of the 30 s : In Abner Snopes, Faulkner captures the conflict and split within the Snopeses value system Although the father (Abner Snopes) is a destructive individual, abusive and violent within the family, slothful at work, a man to be feared, still he embodies many of the qualities Faulkner celebrates (Byrne 3). Abner is a deplorable human being with no redeeming qualities, yet his actions are rationalized, and at the end, is pitied as a victim of the social class structure. As Byrne states, Faulkner uses Abner, this malignant individual, to illustrate the depth of social inequality. Although Abner is a wretched individual, he is not as wicked as the society he lives in. The moral issue is this: can one

rationalize Abner s actions (barn burning, stealing horses, etc.) by his state in society? He is a victim of class, of inequality, of discrimination, of injustice. Should he be held accountable? In the 1949 Nobel Prize ceremony, the president of Swedish Academy, Gustaf Hellstrom, commended William Faulkner: Hellstrom described Faulkner as a social and psychological historian of the post- Civil war American South (who) depicted the sufferings of his people as they attempted to adjust to violent changes in the foundations of their values; he showed extraordinary pity for his characters and their plight, presenting a sympathetic portrait of an often unjust and inhumane culture (Devin Richards 111). By this depiction of Faulkner s sense of right and wrong, one would answer no; Abner