A Critique of Emily Grierson in A Rose for Emily, A Short Story by William Faulkner
Environmental factors play a major role in how a person grows and develops. These circumstances can either positively or negatively affect someone. Emily Grierson’s inability to change is a perfect example of what may happen if an individual is brought up in a toxic environment. In the story “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, the narrator gives clues to the reader that Miss Emily was brought up in an environment that resulted in her inability to recognize change.
The first instance that portrays this fact is when members of the younger generation pay Miss Emily a visit. The young men saw Miss Emily as “A small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt…Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain.” (Pg. 34) The watch hidden inside her belt symbolizes that she is running out of time. Life has just been passing her by without her realizing it. The sound of the invisible ticking highlights that she is unable to acknowledge time while everyone else can. Miss Emily also “Looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water. (Pg. 34) This characterizes her as someone drowning in time. She is trapped with no control over herself and her surroundings.
Another example of Miss Emily not being able to recognize change is her reaction to the death of her father. “After his death, all the ladies prepared to call the house and offer condolence…Miss Emily met them at the door…with no trace of grief on her face…She told them that her father was not dead…She did that for three days.” (Pg.36) She uses denial as a coping mechanism. Her father’s death was the first time she encountered change. People began to see her as someone on their level. She quickly went from being an important person with high social status to having absolutely nothing. Since her father chased away all her potential suitors, she was now alone, desperate, and with no income. The reality of the situation was too much for Miss Emily to mentally handle. Her being in denial was the only way in preventing her insanity. She had no choice but to “cling to that in which that robbed her.” (Pg. 36) If it were not for the ministers and doctors pursuing her to give them the corpse, Mr. Grierson’s body would have never left the house.
The last and most disturbing instance is what was found in Miss Emily’s house after her death. “The man himself lay in bed…looking down at the profound and fleshless grin…the body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace…what was left of him, rotted…in the second pillow…we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.” (Pg. 39-40) Miss Emily has been practicing necrophilia with the corpse of Homer Barron for many years. Homer Barron was Miss Emily’s first and only love interest. He contrasts greatly with her father; who was described as cruel and controlling. These characteristics show that he was not a loving or supportive father. Shortly after meeting Barron, Miss Emily is portrayed by the town as “Fallen” (Pg. 37) This tells the reader that she had been deflowered by Barron. Having sex with him gave her newly discovered feelings of love and intimacy. Since she did not get past the trauma of her father’s death, Miss Emily felt that the only way to keep Barron by her side was to kill him. She could continue experiencing affection and closeness with no worries. Necrophilies are typically controlling to the point that they cannot sustain a relationship with a living person. Miss Emily became a necrophilie because of her need for control. Due to her feeling trapped by her father and time, the only instance she felt any power is when she was with Barron’s corpse. He would have eventually left her anyway. When first seeing Homer Barron, he was building the first sidewalk in town. This symbolizes modernization and development; qualities that strongly differ with Miss Emily’s stagnation. He was also portrayed as “not a marrying man.” (Pg. 37) Barron seemed to have no intention of marrying her and only showed willingness when Miss Emily’s cousins pressured him.
In the story “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, the narrator gives clues to the reader that Miss Emily was brought up in an environment that resulted in her inability to recognize change. These clues consisted of the symbolism of the watch, Miss Emily’s reaction to her father’s death, and the practice of necrophilia. Miss Emily was mentally incapable of overcoming the trauma of her past. Life is all about healing and growing to be the best version of one’s self. If generativity does not occur, then a person will forever feel trapped and helpless; just like Emily Grierson.
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