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Thus, these two stories point out a variety of plights for the working person of the modernist time. First, they both suggest that socioeconomic status and occupational status is very closely tied to respect within the community. Without a good job, both stories imply, it is easy for one to be looked down upon in addition to being chastised. Second, the stories point out that working conditions can be so deplorable that they affect a person's mental and emotional functioning and characteristics. This certainly occurs in Abner's case, as he is driven to a violence that eventually kills him because of the work that he must do, toiling daily for those who have more wealth and power. For Krebs, too, the conditions of fighting as a soldier have so impaired his emotional and psychological faculties that he finds it difficult to assimilate into the society and the family that he once loved. Third and finally, both authors suggest a struggle between classes of people, a struggle that is ultimately tied to work environment. While Abner is undermined by the will of those who are more financially powerful than he is, Krebs's mother associates having a good job with being a part of God's kingdom and a responsible part of the community, suggesting that there are the good or positive members of the community and the negative ones, who do not have jobs. Thus, both stories suggest that working people in the United States have always had difficulties -- these among the most important.
But Faulkner's and Hemingway's implications would be little more than points of literary criticism had they not applied today. However, it is easy to see how some of the problems that existed within the American working world during the modernist period are still alive and well today. For instance, it is still true that occupation and socioeconomic status is closely tied with how one is perceived in society. People with jobs that earn them both money and respect are often viewed as greater contributors to society than those who make little money or who have jobs that gain them little respect. Some even identify themselves by their job titles, and in public, one's job can be a marker of status or importance. In addition, one's occupation is still associated with a person's mental and emotional faculties. This has become especially clear in today's financial crisis. People are beginning to loose sight of who they are and are even beginning to turn to violence -- like Krebs and Abner -- because they have lost their occupations. Finally, the struggle between the rich and the poor certainly still exists as the rich have access to resources like education and transportation that help them get ahead, while the poor struggle for these resources.
Thus, these two modern stories shed a great deal of light on the importance and value of work in American society. While I believe my take on these stories is unique, since I see Abner's violence as frustrated by his work environment and Krebs' previous work as a soldier as an occupation, I believe that further study of these stories might persuade others to come to these same opinions. Personally, I can relate more to Abner's story than Krebs', as I have never served in a war. Abner, however, is rightly frustrated by a work situation that refuses to let him get ahead. He is always in the service of others, and is treated like cheap labor, which he probably is. Thus, he aims to get back at those who have everything, those he sees as preventing him from having nothing. Because I, too, have been trapped in a job that supported a hierarchy of those who are richer or powerful, I understand how Abner felt. An understanding of both of these characters, however, will help others to come to a deeper understanding of the relationship between work and value in the American society.
Faulkner, William. "Barn Burning." RajuAbju.com n.d. Rajuabju.com. 30 March 2009.
Hemingway, Ernest. "A Soldier's Home." Department of Interdisciplinary Studies:
Virginia Tech. 1925. Virginia Tech. 30 March 2009.
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