I just finished reading William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and couldn’t help but think of Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” since both take place on a farm and reveal how farm workers deal with the disparity between themselves and the owners. Simply, they are both about the inequity of the haves and the have nots only in “Barn Burning” the inequity is complicated by an “old fierce pull of blood” - an inherited sense of injustice exacerbated by the fine white mansions with black house servants working in them. Abner Snopes, feeling slighted by the servant, soils and ultimately destroys the owner’s imported rug, and is made to pay damages against his expected pay at harvest time. Like so many times before, Snopes retaliates against this perceived insult by burning the owner’s barn, the symbol of his industry and livelihood.
Dylan, unlike Snopes, is actually in a situation which is demeaning (“puts his cigar/ out in your face just for kicks”), unfeeling (“his bedroom window/ it is made out of bricks”), dishonest (“She’s sixty-eight but she says she’s fifty-four”), and unjust (“Then he fines you every time you slam the door”). Ultimately, though, it may be his need for individuality and desire to use his mind instead of wasting his time on manual labor (“I got a head full of ideas/ That are driving me insane/ It’s a shame the way they make use scrub the floor”) which make him want to quit. However, there is no sense that Dylan will seek any retribution on his bosses; he merely wants to quit the farm.
I suppose that the lesson in these two similar works is how you deal with the problems of life - you can either allow your anger to exacerbate the situation or keep your calm and carry on (ok, is that too much of an internet cliche?). After all, they say living well is the best revenge.
i gotta head full of ideas that are drivin me insane…