Barn Burning

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The Justice (II) Character Analysis

The story’s second judge presides over the community where the Snopes family has just moved, and oversees the case in which Abner has sued Major de Spain over the twenty bushels of corn that, the Major has calculated, Abner owes him for soiling the rug. The judge is immediately recognizable to Sarty as a judge because of his glasses and air of authority. This justice does find against Abner, although he lessens the punishment, given the Snopes family’s poverty.

The Justice (II) Quotes in Barn Burning

The Barn Burning quotes below are all either spoken by The Justice (II) or refer to The Justice (II). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Resentment, Race, and Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Barn Burning published in 1995.
Barn Burning Quotes

He saw the man in spectacles sitting at the plank table and he did not need to be told this was a Justice of the Peace; he sent one glare of fierce, exultant partisan defiance at the man in collar and cravat now, whom he had seen but twice before in his life, who wore on his face an expression not of rage but of amazed unbelief which the boy could not have known was at the incredible circumstance of being sued by one of his own tenants.

Related Characters: Colonel Sartoris “Sarty” Snopes, Abner Snopes, Major de Spain, The Justice (II)
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:

For the second time in the story, Sarty is entering a courtroom, this time because his father is suing the Major de Spain for charging him twenty bushels of corn against his crop after Abner ruined de Spain’s imported rug. As he enters the room, Sarty recognizes the Justice of the Peace from the physical marks of authority and stability, from his spectacles to his position at the front of the room. Just as he did before, when his father was in a trial against Mr. Harris, Sarty embraces a “partisan” stance: that is, he firmly takes his father’s side against whomever the enemy might be. While Sarty’s loyalty has begun to waver throughout the story, such an event as a trial makes it easier for him to want to be loyal to his father.

Meanwhile, the Major de Spain’s incredulity reflects both the entrenched inequality between landowner and sharecropper in the South, as well as Abner Snopes’s refusal to acquiesce to these social norms. Having gotten to know the justice system at first hand, Abner now imagines he can manipulate the system to his own advantage, using its tools against the Major de Spain. The Major, in turn, is shocked rather than angry—just as he had been when he realized that Abner ruined the rug even more by cleaning it—that Abner would even dare to sue him, rather than submit to being punished. The Major de Spain has never had to question his superiority, as indeed many people in the South at this time did not. Abner, then, comes off more sympathetically here, even if he cannot really claim the moral or legal high ground. Abner does have the nerve to challenge a legitimately unfair and exploitative situation, even if he is doing so in both horribly destructive (and self-destructive) ways.

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The Justice (II) Character Timeline in Barn Burning

The timeline below shows where the character The Justice (II) appears in Barn Burning. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Barn Burning
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
...looking at a sea of faces. Sarty sees a man with glasses and understands it’s another Justice of the Peace, and also sees the Major in collar and cravat. The Major has... (full context)
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
Loyalty, Family, Blood Theme Icon
Sarty goes up to the Justice and cries that his father didn’t burn—but his father interrupts him and orders him back... (full context)
Aspiration, Desperation, and Defiance Theme Icon
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
...to the wagon, Sarty remains in the back of the room, where he can hear the Justice ask if Abner thinks twenty bushels of corn is too high for the damage done.... (full context)
Independence and Justice Theme Icon
The Justice says he’s going to find against Abner, but twenty bushels seems high for someone in... (full context)