Major de Spain hires Abner Snopes to tenant his land as a sharecropper. De Spain is a property owner of some stature and thus the social opposite of Ab, who owns nothing and has virtually no social standing. De Spain bears the title Major as an ex-officer of the Confederate Army; here again, he is Ab's social opposite, for Ab was a private soldier (and not a very good one). The Major presumably owned slaves before the war; he still keeps black servants, some of them in livery in the house, others no doubt bound for a pittance in the yards and fields. He is a member of the Southern aristocracy, but with a qualification: his name, which connects him with neither the Protestant upper class nor the Bourbons or other French-descended grandees of the Old South; the name de Spain suggests the nearly-submerged Spanish presence in Louisiana and Florida, or even the creole, or ''light-skinned free blacks'' of New Orleans. If de Spain were a creole, an individual with some African ancestors, then his lording his stature over Ab would presumably be even more stinging for Ab than usual in such confrontations. But this is speculative.
De Spain rides a sorrel horse; Ab drives mules. Again the contrast is emphatic. But it is important not to deprive Major de Spain of his humanity by characterizing him as a stereotypical oppressor. Ab Snopes, after all, is the real villain of the tale. In fact, compared to Ab, the Major strikes one as a reasonable man. His reaction to...
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