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The Power Of Land: Barn Burn By William Faulkner

1855 words - 7 pages

The importance of land ownership has been a vital part of modern society due to the many goods and resources one can acquire from it. Because of this, landowners have a distinct advantage over non-land owners when it comes to these resources. Not only are landowners able to use the land themselves, but grant others the ability to use their land for a percentage of the produce. This is known as sharecropping. As seen is William Faulkner’s short story, Barn Burn, it is land ownership and not ethnic origins gives power to certain individuals. By controlling the livelihood of individuals who live off the earth, landowners place themselves in a more advanced social class than those without land. In Charles Chesnutt’s story The Goophered Grapevine, the elements of class and race show themselves throughout the story and even the title of the story imposes African vernacular. Race, however, was not the sole factor contributing to class in the 1900’s. In both Barn Burning and The Goophered Grapevine, the issues of land ownership evoke concerns of classism in a post-civil war society; however, the reactions of the characters to landowners range from compliance to petty revenge.
In Barn Burning by Faulkner, the issues of class make appearance in the story by the characters settings. For instance, the main character’s family, the Snopes, are sharecroppers and live in settings very different from their boss (Major de Spain) who owns the land they farm. Major de Spain’s house is the first clear indicator of the economical differences present between the two families. When the main character, Sartoris Snopes, first comes upon the house Major de Spain lives in he is in awestruck. As stated in Barn Burning, “for all the twelve movings, they had sojourned until now in a poor country, a land of small farms and fields and houses, and he had never seen a house like this before”( Faulkner 804). Before Sartoris has even met Major de Spain, an impression based on previous notions of the wealthy is already forming in his head. It is clear to both Sartoris and his family that Major de Spain comes from a social class well above their own and even the previous landowners the Snopes family had worked with. Not only was the house gated, but it was also described as being “as big as a courthouse” (Faulkner 804). The house is a physical representation of the class differences that contribute to a wide range of feelings.
The characters reactions to the lavish house are very different. The house to Sartoris is shown to evoke feelings of “peace and joy” in the young boy (Faulkner 804). Sartoris see the house as being unbreakable. As noted from Sartoris internal dialogue, he views the house as being safe from his father’s outbursts (Faulkner 804). On the other hand, Sartoris’ father (Abner Snopes) reaction to the house differs greatly from the feelings of security seen in young Sartoris. The house in Abner’s mind is painful reminder of the vast economical differences between...

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