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The South as Depicted in the Short Stories Barn Burning and The Life You Save

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Abner carries this humiliation with him every time he goes to a new farm. The story begins after the first barn has been burned and he is in the courtroom with his son Sarty. Sarty almost tells the truth and later is hit by his father for almost telling the truth (Faulkner, 1939, 268). Abner is also angry because slavery has been abolished and he has to do the work that former slaves once did. In the hierarchy of the South at this time, Abner is on the lowest echelon of white postwar Southern Society and he doesn’t like it (Moore and Aker, 11). The life of the itinerant farmer was difficult after the war because a family had to move from one plantation to another to have a place to live and work. The challenge was that as an itinerant sharecropper they had no money except for what they worked for in each place and part of what they earned was given back to the plantation owner for the opportunity to live in a shack on the plantation and work (Moore and Akers, 10). These families were very poor. In the story, Abner is portrayed as a very broken man and the brokenness is symbolized by the battered stove, the broken beds and chairs and a clock that wouldn’t run anymore (Faulkner, 266). This is all the family has and the mother holds on to these possessions as what’s left of her dowry. Abner is very aware of the differences between the Southern aristocracy, the tenant farmers and the bonded workers who are the trench labor (Moore and Akers, 11). He knows he’s at the very bottom of the ladder and he’s angry because even niggers are further up on the hierarchy than he is. so his solution is to keep burning barns. Abner’s anger moves to its height once he reaches the de Spains and sees all the lushness of the house and of the land. We see that this guy isn’t a very nice man, but he may be typical of some of the itinerant farmers at the time.