"Barn Burning" is a sad story because it very clearly shows the classical struggle between the "privileged" and the "underprivileged" classes. Time after time emotions of despair surface from both the protagonist and the antagonist involved in the story.
This story outlines two distinct protagonists and two distinct antagonists. The first two are Colonel Sartoris Snopes ("Sarty") and his father Abner Snopes ("Ab"). Sarty is the protagonist surrounded by his father antagonism whereas Ab is the protagonist antagonized by the social structure and the struggle that is imposed on him and his family.
The economic status of the main characters is poor, without hope of improving their condition, and at the mercy of a quasi-feudal system in North America during the late 1800's. Being a sharecropper, Ab and his family had to share half or two-thirds of the harvest with the landowner and out of their share pay for the necessities of life.
As a result of this status, Ab and his family know from the start what the future will hold -- hard work for their landlord and mere survival for them.
No hope for advancement prevails throughout the story. Sarty, his brother and the twin sisters have no access to education, as they must spend their time working in the fields or at home performing familial duties. Nutrition is lacking "He could smell the coffee from the room where they would presently eat the cold food remaining from the mid-afternoon meal" (PARA. 55). As a consequence, poor health combined with inadequate opportunity results in low morale. A morale which the writer is identifying with the middle class of his times "that same quality which in later years would cause his descendants to over-run the engine before putting a motor car into motion" (PARA. 20)...