Racial Prejudice In “Barn Burning” By William Faulkner

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

Over the years many authors have written in a way that they believe best portrays the setting of their story. The language authors use can have a large impact on the way their stories are understood by the reader. While the use of some language may be uncomfortable for readers it allows them to see what life was like during the period they are reading about. In the story, “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner one can see the use of many racist remarks and characters portrayed as racist to help the reader understand the time period and issues within it.

At the beginning of the story the reader is introduced to the Snopes family through a court case. This case gives the basis of the story by explaining the first barn burning and essentially how Mr. Snopes “warned’ the owner before it happened. The reader receives insight from the author about the type of life the Snopes family lives. The Snopes family is told to be a family of poor white sharecroppers who have more in common with the black servants and other sharecroppers than they do with the white landowners. This angers Mr. Snopes because he does not want to be on the same level as a servant who is simply seen as property during this time. I believe that this is shown when Faulkner writes, “There was something about his wolf-like independence and even courage…” Through this quote Faulkner can help the reader understand Mr. Snopes racial prejudice and see that he believes his is at the top of society like a wolf is shown as the top of its society. Mr. Snopes not only believes that he is better than the African American sharecroppers and servants, he also believes that by burning the barns of the white landowners he is proving that he is better than them.

Along with the prejudice shown by Mr. Snopes the reader is given a glimpse of the prejudice that has rubbed off on the rest of the Snopes family. As the author Faulkner writes with a style that shows some underlying concepts for the reader to understand without being directly told. While the main racial issues are coming from the head of the family, Mr. Snopes, the readers also see that the rest of the Snopes family has learned such behaviors. Specifically, the Snopes son presents with a large amount of this behavior but not nearly as much as his father who discusses how the black people want their sweat to be like that of white people. By adding this into the conversation Faulkner makes it very clear to the reader that Mr. Snopes has an issue not being a rich white landowner.

Faulkner is one of the many authors that uses racial prejudice to portray a time period uncomfortable for many people to think about. He shows the reader a society in which people are not viewed as human because they have a different skin color. Throughout this story in particular the readers are exposed to a man who is unhappy being in a similar place financially to any African American workers which leads him to burn the property of white landowners out of spite. From this act of despair, the reader can also see how Mr. Snopes actions affect his family. Faulkner does an amazing job explaining this society without making it to the point of no longer wanting to read the story.


Read more