On William Faulkner, White Trash, and 400 Years of Class War

I remember reading the story first in high school and then in college. Every class discussion about Abner [Snopes] involved jokes about inbreeding and bad teeth. Sometimes someone would hum a few bars from the theme to Deliverance. We would all laugh—us white kids in the Midwest. We laughed because we weren’t like him, we knew better. And Abner, he was every stereotype of a poor white that has ever permeated the American story. He is treated like filth, trapped in an economic system that ties him to a rich man’s land. But Abner is no saint. He treats others in the same way, wiping shit all over the rug of the owner of a mansion, whose barn he later burns.

I wouldn’t realize this until I was older, but Faulkner doesn’t want us to laugh at Abner. He wants us to ask, what would it be like to be him? To feel as though destruction was your only path to dignity. That is was only through fire you could preserve your humanity.
— Lyz Lenz