Mrs. de Spain

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Mrs. de Spain
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De Spain, Mrs.
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The wife of Major de Spain is mentioned in "A Bear Hunt," when Ratliff wonders if she already owns a sewing machine - or may have given it to "one of her married daughters" (63). These daughters are never mentioned again, but Mrs. de Spain herself appears briefly but vividly in "Barn Burning" when Ab Snopes tracks manure onto the expensive "blond rug" inside the front door of her mansion (12). To Ab's son Sarty she is "a lady," though the narrator's description also depicts her as a housewife: she wears "an apron" over her "gown with lace at the throat," and though the De Spains have black servants, the fact that she is "wiping cake or biscuit dough from her hands" means she knows her own way to the kitchen (11-12). There is nothing arrogant about the way, despite her "incredulous amazement" at finding Ab in her front hall, she asks him to "please go away" (12). How much she has to do with her husband's determination to punish Ab for his act is never revealed in the story, though when Ratliff retells it in The Hamlet he "reckons" she and her indignation stand "behind" Major de Spain's treatment of Ab (17). The Negro servant who opened the door in the short story calls her "Miss Lula" (11). Ratliff calls her "Miz de Spain" (16).