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William Falukner's Barn Burning Essay

2194 words - 9 pages

Background
As this story opens, we find our antihero struggling to support his family as a tenement farmer in an unnamed Southern county. The story explains that some 30 years prior, Mr. Snopes was making a living as a mercenary and a fugitive horse thief during the Civil War. These facts set the story sometime around 1895, just around the end of the "Gilded Age". This was a time of significant social turmoil caused by reconstruction efforts in the South, the beginnings of an economic boom in the North, a massive influx of European Immigrants, and the political and social disenfranchisement of racial minority groups and the poor.
Mr. Snopes' entire life has been spent on the losing side of a class war that is invisibly waged by those of means against those who have no idea it is occurring, or have no idea how to resist. The life of a tenement farmer, or sharecropper as the dominant class may try to euphemize it, is not a beneficial one. Under this system of agriculture a usually wealthy landowner hires farmers to live on their land and farm it. They then charge rent, usually payable in a portion of the harvested crop. The tenement farmer operating at the time of this story, lacking the convenient access to equipment available today, was forced to rent equipment from the landowner. This placed the already impoverished farmer further in debt to the landowner.
This is an age old strategic tactic used in class warfare. In class warfare, unlike most wars, the object is not to destroy, or eliminate the enemy. In class warfare it is very important to the dominant class that the subordinate class not realize that the war exist. Lulled into labor by the myth of meritocracy these groups of underprivileged and working poor constantly struggle, not knowing each drop of sweat pushes the wealth they seek farther from themselves and adds it to the wealth of their camouflaged enemy.
Thesis
Mr. Snopes, is often viewed as the villain of this story, and while he is mean, irascible, and possibly misguided in is tactics, this paper will argue that he represents the American Spirit! The argument will be that; he is the only character in the story who observes and realizes the truth about class warfare in his time, and while his actions are immoral, he has no other weapons to fight for his moral cause, which is not a fight against the wealthy per se, but against the class system altogether. In this he exemplifies the indomitable American Spirit.
Seeing The Forest...
As mentioned, the most important thing about class warfare, on the part of the dominant class, is maintaining the status quo. The working poor must be allowed to make enough to survive and remain local. If they are not allowed this, there will be no cheap labor/services available to the dominant class due either to death or a mass exodus of the exploited. This means that in the case of the tenement farmer it is important to ensure he and his family have only enough to survive and are not allowed to...

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