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At the heart of Abner's defiance is his awareness that the man in the big house "aims to begin owning me body and soul for the next eight months." This outrage at his plight as tenant farmer fuels the father's rebellion against the class structure.
Here the finer quality of the black's attire, his position within the house, and his power to deny the white entrance heighten the racial tensions.
Poor "white sweat" may mix with "nigger sweat." The quality of life of the poor whites and that of the blacks are too similar: whites may now claim a racial superiority but not a class superiority. The racial element in the doorway encounter only fuels the father's rage all the more.
On their repetitious migrations from house to house, Sarty's mother carries her one surviving treasured possession, a remnant of her dowry, a "clock inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which would not run." In their photographs and words in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Walker Evans and James Agee captured just such tenant farmer shacks with their meager possessions.
Such cherished possessions of the tenant farm wife are highlighted in the ninth of Evans' photographs known as "The Altar" and are described by Agee in the "Altar" section of the text: on the altar are a green glass bowl in which sits a white china swan, two small twin vases, and a fluted saucer about which the wife "cares more dearly than for anything else she possesses." This is her last effort to make the house "pretty" (Agee 163).
Foremost as such an example of social injustice is the encounter at the doorway of the de Spain mansion between the Snopes father and son and the de Spain black house servant.
At this moment young Colonel Sartoris Snopes (whose very names pit the aristocratic, land-owning rich against the tenant farmer poor) is ushered into the reality of class differences, that being the cleavage within the local community.Written as it was, at the ebb of the 1930s, a decade of social, economic, and cultural tumult, the decade of the Great Depression, William Faulkner's short story "Barn Burning" may be read and discussed in our classrooms as just that--a story of the '30s, for "Barn Burning" offers students insights into these years as they were lived by the nation and the South and captured by our artists.This story was first published in June of 1939 in Harper's Magazine and later awarded the 0.In John Steinbeck's novel the Joads, also poor whites, are uprooted from their Midwestern farmland and journey west.In addition we can view the thirty some paintings of Jacob Lawrence's migration series, graphic depictions of the blacks' journey in the '30s from the rural poverty-stricken South to the urban tenements of the North.Henry Memorial Award for the best short story of the year.Whether read alone, as part of a thematic unit on the Depression era, or as an element of an interdisciplinary course of the Depression '30s, "Barn Burning" can be used to awaken students to the race, class, and economic turmoil of the decade.His supposed supremacy as a white man is challenged by the black servant who obviously holds a superior position in the doorway.The black's appearance and his authoritorial position over Snopes within the confines of the house mock the Snopeses' claims to racial superiority.The contrast between the de Spain mansion and the Snopes tenant farmer shack highlights the terrible divide between owner and tenant in the '30s.Here in "Barn Burning" the small, impoverished and illiterate ten-year-old boy, ill nourished on cold food and dressed in clean but faded, patched jeans, has experienced home as a succession of identical "unpainted two room houses, "tenant farmer hovels, for the Snopeses have moved a dozen times through poor country.