To what extent does class play a role in the short story "Barn Burning"?

Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just to pick up from and add a little to epollock's excellent answer above, economic class is further demonstrated in Faulkner's "Barn Burning" by Abner's method of holding on to his dignity.  He is a man without power and without money, and when he feels he is wronged, he holds on to his dignity by burning barns.  He sees doing so as his only way to "even the score," right wrongs, get revenge on those who have wronged him.  As a bitterly poor man, he sees this as his only option.  It is how he attempts to hold on to his dignity. 

As Faulkner writes:

...the element of fire spoke to some deep mainspring of his father's being, as the element of steel or of powder spoke to other men, as the one weapon for the preservation of integrity, else breath were not worth the breathing, and hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion.

In a sense, Abner does what all powerless people (most of us) wish they could do.  We just know better and are not willing to destroy our lives like Abner has.

mkcapen1 | Student

In the short story "Barn Burning" the young boy is described as wearing pants that are too small and the atmosphere and dialect implies that the man who is accused of the barn burning and is boy do not have much money.  In addition, when the man goes to his new job, he enters the house with little care or idea that he is expected to demonstrate manners by cleaning off his feet.  He messes up the rug.

The class issue is relative because the man is obviously angry at the people who have more than him.  He feels victimized and therefore, feels justified in retaliating when he does not like something that someone does to him.  The family has had no other means of support other than what meager resources the husband provided so they have gone along with his whims and traverses until the boy finally outs the father.


epollock | Student

 Class is the major contrast in the story. The protagonist of “Barn Burning” is a poor ten-year-old boy with the unusual and very Faulknerian name of Colonel Sartoris Snopes (called Sarty by his family). His father, Abner Snopes, is a primitive and vengeful man who divides the world into two opposing camps—blood kin (“us”) and enemies (“they”). He is the poor, ignorant, and vicious patriarch of an impoverished family. Significantly, Faulkner gives Ab several features that link him on an associative level with the devil. The story of  “Barn Burning” is Sarty’s growing awareness of his father’s depravity and the boy’s internal struggle between blood loyalty to his father and a vague but noble ideal of honor suggested by the aristocratic Major de Spain. The boy loves his father but he also understands his immoral destructiveness. Sarty sees himself as an individual different from his father and kinfolk. By the end of the story he has achieved a difficult and tortured moral independence from his father.

proshizzler91 | Student

major class in this story. Abner is a mean guy who shows no class what so ever. HE also steps in poop before her goes into the De Spains house so that he can wipe it all over the house. The African American fellow (slave) tries to stop him before he goes in however, hhe shoves him off and goes in. The rug that he is stepping on is worth $100 and the owners are ticked! he is charged 20 bushels for his wrong doing. and since the De Spain did this, he goes to burn his barn.