The importance of land ownership has been a vital part of modern society due to the many goods and resources one can acquire from it. Because of this, landowners have a distinct advantage over non-land owners when it comes to these resources. Not only are landowners able to use the land themselves, but grant others the ability to use their land for a percentage of the produce. This is known as sharecropping. As seen is William Faulkner’s short story, Barn Burn, it is land ownership and not ethnic origins gives power to certain individuals. By controlling the livelihood of individuals who live off the earth, landowners place themselves in a more advanced social class than those without land. In Charles Chesnutt’s story The Goophered Grapevine, the elements of class and race show themselves throughout the story and even the title of the story imposes African vernacular. Race, however, was not the sole factor contributing to class in the 1900’s. In both Barn Burning and The Goophered Grapevine, the issues of land ownership evoke concerns of classism in a post-civil war society; however, the reactions of the characters to landowners range from compliance to petty revenge.
In Barn Burning by Faulkner, the issues of class make appearance in the story by the characters settings. For instance, the main character’s family, the Snopes, are sharecroppers and live in settings very different from their boss (Major de Spain) who owns the land they farm. Major de Spain’s house is the first clear indicator of the economical differences present between the two families. When the main character, Sartoris Snopes, first comes upon the house Major de Spain lives in he is in awestruck. As stated in Barn Burning, “for all the twelve movings, they...
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...e to them than a buzzing wasp” (Faulkner 804). It is through land that this power derives from. Without land, Major de Spain would have less income and would therefore be less powerful. Similarly, Julius from The Goophered Grapevine was never able to own the vineyard he lived on. Because of this, he was unable to stop others from potentially ruining his livelihood and rendering himself homeless. Both Faulkner and Chesnutt’s usage of land in their short stories add a level of realism to the story and also helps depicts the struggles between differing economic classes.
Chesnutt, Charles. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Eighth Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc, 2012. 699-706. Print.
Faulkner, William. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Eighth Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc, 2012. 800-812. Print.
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