How would you apply Marxism to "Barn Burning"?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Marxist readings of literature look at the socio-economic dynamics at play in the text.  Marxism suggests a that perfect society works in a kind of benevolent harmony where everyone works for the betterment of all and that each man "earns" to the measure of his need (and not his want).  Marxism is critical of capitalism, where personal profit is the goal, because the wealthy (bourgeause) become more wealthy on the efforts of the workers (proletariat).  A Marxist view would look at this story and see how it  illustrates how the father is "kept down" by the wealthy and powerful, and would conclude that Sarty's father burns barns, not from a psychological disturbance or just a plain old mean streak, but because he is enraged by the role he has in life -- a lowly sharecropper who is only better than his black counterparts because he is white.  Whenever he feels slighted and insulted by the upper classes, he retaliates.  This anger comes from the seemingly unchangeable socio-econmic situation where he will never have a chance to rise from his proletariat position in society and will therefore, never have what he needs financially or emotionally from this system. 

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