Barn Burning Essay Research Paper Written as — страница 2

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foot down in a pile of fresh horse droppings, to “wipe ya foot, white man.” Saying “Get out of my way, nigger,” the father enters the house and imprints his besmeared footprints on the rug. Sarty experiences the interior of the house as a swirl of glittering chandeliers, gleaming gold frames, and curving carpeted stairs. His image of Mrs. de Spain is one of a woman “wiping cake or biscuit dough from her hands.” Young Sarty falls under the spell of the house, its possessions, its security. While the son imagines the house as a citadel secure against momentary stings from his father, “the buzzing wasp,” the father Abner Snopes sees the house as “pretty and white,” built on “sweat, nigger sweat. Maybe it ain’t white enough yet to suit him. Maybe he [de Spain]

wants to mix some white sweat with it.” Abner Snopes understands full well the hardships, deprivation, and ignorance that the Southern social system has exacted. At the heart of Abner’s defiance is his awareness that the man in the big house “aims to begin owning me body and soul for the next eight months.” This outrage at his plight as tenant farmer fuels the father’s rebellion against the class structure. To attack the aristocratic class, Abner Snopes deliberately builds his fires to bum the property owned by the boss and twice destroys the rug. In our classroom discussion of the character of Abner Snopes, we should build an awareness of the oppression of the laborer, so common in the ’30s, and an appreciation of the underclass of white workers who functioned then

in a version of indentured servitude. These social and economic insights may help students comprehend the rage and violence of this underclass, typified by the barn-burning Abner. The contrast between the de Spain mansion and the Snopes tenant farmer shack highlights the terrible divide between owner and tenant in the ’30s. Here in “Barn Burning” the small, impoverished and illiterate ten-year-old boy, ill nourished on cold food and dressed in clean but faded, patched jeans, has experienced home as a succession of identical “unpainted two room houses, “tenant farmer hovels, for the Snopeses have moved a dozen times through poor country. Such migrations were a dominant social reality and theme of ’30s artists. Now we can dwell a while on migration, as both the

narrative structure and theme of the ’30s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath. In John Steinbeck’s novel the Joads, also poor whites, are uprooted from their Midwestern farmland and journey west. In addition we can view the thirty some paintings of Jacob Lawrence’s migration series, graphic depictions of the blacks’ journey in the ’30s from the rural poverty-stricken South to the urban tenements of the North. On their repetitious migrations from house to house, Sarty’s mother carries her one surviving treasured possession, a remnant of her dowry, a “clock inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which would not run.” In their photographs and words in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Walker Evans and James Agee captured just such tenant farmer shacks with their meager possessions.

Such cherished possessions of the tenant farm wife are highlighted in the ninth of Evans’ photographs known as “The Altar” and are described by Agee in the “Altar” section of the text: on the altar are a green glass bowl in which sits a white china swan, two small twin vases, and a fluted saucer about which the wife “cares more dearly than for anything else she possesses.” This is her last effort to make the house “pretty” (Agee 163). Here we can introduce students to the stark, graphic photographic heritage of the Depression ’30s. Besides the landmark photos of Walker Evans, students might view Dorothea Lange’s photographs as well as Eudora Welty’s Depression era “snapshot album,” One Time, One Place, pictures of the Mississippi landscape Faulkner

captures here in vivid, concrete, focused, detailed language. We need to emphasize these photographers’ sensitivity to the common man, the impoverished, the oppressed in contrast with the Fugitives’ alliance with the privileged. We can impress upon our students that these two Depression classics, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and I’ll Take My Stand, articulate the very distinctions which Faulkner identifies with Sartoris and Snopes and which he presents in “Barn Burning.” This encounter at the door of the white aristocrat’s mansion not only speaks to class distinctions within the white race but also underscores the superior position of the black house servant over the poor white tenant farmer. Here the finer quality of the black’s attire, his position within the