Selected Short Stories

Plot summary

Abner, the father of young Sarty Snopes, is being driven out of town after burning down his landlord's barn. In the court case that opens the story and in which Sarty is initially called to testify, no palpable proof can point to Abner as the culprit, but the Snopes family is ordered to leave the county. They move to a new place where Abner is to work as a sharecropper for Major de Spain, but Abner cannot seem to stop himself from acting out against authority in order to, in his eyes, preserve his honor. Shortly after arriving at his new position, Abner visits Major de Spain's house and tracks horse droppings on a blond rug. Major de Spain orders Abner to clean the rug, which he does by using a harsh lye soap, ruining the rug beyond repair, before throwing the rug onto Major de Spain's front porch. Major de Spain levies on Abner a fine of 20 bushels of corn against the price of the rug. At court, a Justice of the Peace reduces the fine to ten bushels of corn. Feeling once again wronged, Abner makes preparations to set fire to Major de Spain's barn. Sarty warns Major de Spain of his father's intentions to burn down his barn and then flees in the direction of his father. He is soon overtaken by Major de Spain on his horse and jumps into the ditch to get out of the way. Sarty hears two gunshots, but who gets shot is never revealed; Profoundly affected by his father's legacy, the boy does not return to his family but continues on with his life alone.

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