Barn Burning Essay Research Paper Written as — страница 3

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house, and his power to deny the white entrance heighten the racial tensions. Poor “white sweat” may mix with “nigger sweat.” The quality of life of the poor whites and that of the blacks are too similar: whites may now claim a racial superiority but not a class superiority. Poor whites, too, can be “owned” as blacks were. The racial element in the doorway encounter only fuels the father’s rage all the more. His supposed supremacy as a white man is challenged by the black servant who obviously holds a superior position in the doorway. The black’s appearance and his authoritorial position over Snopes within the confines of the house mock the Snopeses’ claims to racial superiority. At this point we might remind students of Mississippi’s position as our poorest

state in the 1930s, a state with an unmatched record of racial atrocities, a state where poor whites and blacks scraped at the bottom of the economic barrel, and where the racial tensions exploded in rage and violence. These historic facts can lead to a clearer understanding of why Abner Snopes acts as he does here. Significantly in his complex characterization of Abner Snopes, Faulkner captures the conflict and split within the Snopeses’ value system as well. Although the father is a destructive individual, abusive and violent within the family, slothful about work, a man to be feared, still he embodies many qualities Faulkner celebrates. Abner’s very defiance of the humiliation at the white man’s doorway, his courage, pride, and endurance (qualities which Faulkner would

later extol in his Nobel Prize Speech) are admirable, and initially these qualities guarantee Sarty’s loyalty against the “enemy.” Moreover, the father’s “wolflike independence and even courage” plus his “ferocious conviction in the rightness of his ways” have enabled him to forge an individual identity over years when he has been possessed as chattel by wealthy white men. He has coped, survived, and endured unmerited sufferings on his own tenacious terms. Often students experience difficulty in fathoming Faulkner’s partial admiration for Abner. They see only the negative, violent, destructive Abner, so we might linger a while amidst the language of the Nobel Prize Speech and the complex mix of qualities attributed to Abner Snopes in hopes of establishing an

appreciation of the fullness of Abner’s character which includes his independence, courage, and struggle against impossible odds. Yet conversely the cluster of words like “ruthless,” “bloodless,” “stiff,” “cut from tin,” and “ironlike” surrounding Abner Snopes suggests the metallic, inhuman, mechanical identity Faulkner also recognizes in Snopes. Any love, pity, and compassion are now gone from the father; only the “frozen ferocity” and the “cold, dead voice” remain. In Abner Snopes Faulkner captures the toll to the human spirit that the oppression, deprivation, and injustice of the Great Depression exacted. Furthermore, the relentless defiance by the underclass extracts an even greater human cost. The situation and system dehumanize the individual

in ways that Abner Snopes graphically exemplifies. Faulkner, a man of the ’30s, knew this well; our students, by our pointed attention to the truths of human suffering, can understand this, too. When Sarty warns the de Spain household of his father’s intention to bum the barn, he supports the Fugitive/agrarian South without fully comprehending his father’s rage against the flip side of the Old South, people as chattel. It is people as chattel which Abner Snopes reviles even though his very methods dehumanize him. The son turns from the destructive defiance of his family as he still clings to an idealized image of his father. His moral growth brings Sarty to more humanitarian values beyond mere loyalty to the clan. He responds to the honor and integrity epitomized by the

Sartoris Old South as he also is attracted to the material splendors of the aristocratic South. While the conflict and tension are personal and moral for Sarty, they are also grounded in the socioeconomic realities of the ’30s: the long-standing class distinctions between the white land owners and the white tenant farmers; the racial distinction between blacks and whites; the flawed presumption of racial superiority by the tenant farmer, the poor white trash class over the blacks. Clearly in this tale of initiation, one of moral choices and their consequences, Faulkner recreates Southern class differences and racial distinctions at the close of the decade of the 1930s. At this time the Old South was withering away from its own decadence and sin; the old agricultural society was