Law in Literature: Legal Themes in Short Stories

By Elizabeth Villiers Gemmette | Go to book overview

Barn Burning

William Faulkner

The store in which the Justice of the Peace's court was sitting smelled of cheese. The boy, crouched on his nail keg at the back of the crowded room, knew he smelled cheese, and more: from where he sat he could see the ranked shelves close-packed with the solid, squat, dynamic shapes of tin cans whose labels his stomach read, not from the lettering which meant nothing to his mind but from the scarlet devils and the silver curve of fish--this, the cheese which he knew he smelled and the hermetic meat which his intestines believed he smelled coming in intermittent gusts momentary and brief between the other constant one, the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood. He could not see the table where the Justice sat and before which his father and his father's enemy (our enemy he thought in that despair; ourn! mine and hisn both! He's my father!) stood, but he could hear them, the two of them that is, because his father had said no word yet:

"But what proof have you, Mr. Harris?"

"I told you. The hog got into my corn. I caught it up and sent it back to him. He had no fence that would hold it. I told him so, warned him. The next time I put the hog in my pen. When he came to get it I gave him enough wire to patch up his pen. The next time I put the hog up and kept it. I rode down to his house and saw the wire I gave him still rolled on to the spool in his yard. I told him he could have the hog when he paid me a dollar pound fee. That evening a nigger came with the dollar and got the hog. He was a strange nigger. He said, 'He say to tell you wood and hay kin burn.' I said, 'What?' 'That whut he say to tell you,' the nigger said, 'Wood and hay kin burn.' That night my barn burned. I got the stock out but I lost the barn."

"Where is the nigger? Have you got him?"

"He was a strange nigger, I tell you. I don't know what became of him."

"But that's not proof. Don't you see that's not proof?"

"Get that boy up here. He knows." For a moment the boy thought too that the man meant his older brother until Harris

-285-

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Law in Literature: Legal Themes in Short Stories
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Part One - Establishing Laws 1
  • 1 - Natural, Divine, and Positive Law 3
  • 2 - Obedience to Positive Law 15
  • 3 - Equality 51
  • 4 - Standards and Presumptions 65
  • Part Two - The Judicial System 101
  • 5 - Finding the Truth 103
  • 6 - The Jury System 113
  • 7 - Trial Lawyers in Action 141
  • 8 - The Judicial Process 173
  • Part Three - Punishment 191
  • 10 - Capital Punishment 221
  • 11 - The Guilty Conscience 255
  • 12 - Justice 273
  • Barn Burning - William Faulkner 285
  • Part Four - Criminal Matters 299
  • 14 - Murderers 337
  • Han's Crime Shiga Naoya 346
  • 15 - The Mens Rea 355
  • 16 - Defenses of Necessity and Passion 377
  • 17 - Property Concepts 389
  • 18 - Contracts and Negotiable Instruments 415
  • 19 - Torts 427
  • 20 - Domestic Relations 439
  • Appendix A: Wigmore's List of Legal Novels 453
  • Index 469
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