The rug at the entrance to the home of Major de Spain becomes the crux of one of the Snopes family’s numerous struggles with justice and authority. After Abner defiantly steps in horse droppings and then drags his shoe across the rug’s surface, he orders his daughters to clean the rug (which the Major has dropped off at the family shack), and he himself uses a rough, jagged stone, which ensures that the delicate object will not be left unscathed. Both within and beyond the family, then, the rug allows Abner to assert his own authority over others, while he can maintain a superior position with respect to them.
We later learn that this rug, adored by Mrs. de Spain cost a hundred dollars and came from France. Its exotic provenance and enormous cost—it’s worth more than the Snopes family will ever make in their lifetime, as the Major says—lend the rug symbolic importance in terms of the entrenched inequalities of Southern life following the Civil War. The Snopes and the de Spain families live near each other, and yet occupy entirely separate worlds. While Abner may never be able to afford the rug himself, what he can do is ruin it for good—the only way out of such vast social difference that he can imagine.
The Rug Quotes in Barn Burning
And now the boy saw the prints of the stiff foot on the doorjamb and saw them appear on the pale rug behind the machinelike deliberation of the foot which seemed to bear (or transmit) twice the weight which the body compassed.