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Comparative Analysis of the Lesson and Barn Burning Essay

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The overwhelming poverty that Sylvia (Toni Cade Bambara, "The Lesson" p.543) and Abner (William Faulkner, "Barn Burning" p.250) experience dooms them both to a life of self-destruction. Though from different worlds, Sylvia and Abner both experience hate, confusion, and anger because of their lowly positions in life. Instead of trying to better themselves, they choose to vent their dissatisfactions on others, and ignore the cause of the discriminations they face.

Sylvia and Abner have both experienced a life full of hardships. Abner has a history of commiting crimes for a living, such as the time he spent stealing horses during the civil war. Though from a completely different time frame and setting, Sylvia has also spent her life barely scraping by. When Miss Moore takes the children to the toy store, Sylvia's complete befuddlement at the idea of owning something that isn't useful vividly exemplifies how unfamiliar she is with wealth. Bad experiences in both Sylvia and Abner's lives with upper class people also plays into their uncivility twards anyone not as poor as they are. Due to Abners history as a sharecropper and criminal, it is quite likely that he has had many unpleasant experiences with wealthy people. In his story, Faulkner implies that Abner is no stranger to commiting crimes against his employers. In at least one instance, when he is shot while stealing a horse, Abner is physically punished for his lawlessness. Sylvia's distaste for anyone who might be considered better that her is evidenced by her dislike of Miss Moore. Miss Moore's education alienates her from Sylvia, who is disconcerted by her "nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup." Miss Moore's condescending aditude twards Sylvia lends itself...


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...stability causes then both to become self-loathing, which only increases their anger and frustrations, even though they do not realize it. Abner becomes obsessed with the idea that all inequalities come from class discrepancies, yet he is so embedded in his own privation that he is unable to free himself from it. Sylvia has not yet reached that point, as her ideas are not so finely tuned, yet her actions twards Miss Moore and Sugar clearly suggest that she is already well on her way to joining Abner in self-destruction.

Abner's actions eventually lead to his death, when his son alerts the Master of his father's plan to burn the Master's barn. Though unlear whether Sylvia will ever receive the physical repercussion of death which Abner has, she is already doomed to a life of poverty and ignorance due to her inability to accept the wisdom of those around her.



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