A Rose For Emily By William Faulkner: A Theme Of Feminism

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

“A Rose for Emily” is an American short story written by William Faulkner, published in 1930. The story is fictional and is set in a southern county of Mississippi. It is set during the reconstruction period, after the civil wars. This short story begins with a first-person narration of the protagonist’s funeral, Miss Emily Grierson. Emily is an elderly peasant woman who had lived a hard life especially after the death of her father, Mr. Grierson. She does not accept the fact that her father is no more and she opts to stay with his corpse. Despite the fact that her father had been strict to her such that she can’t interact with people, she still craves for her father’s presence.

However, Emily gradually interacts with the townspeople and she earns herself respect; the respect which gives her the courage to face life. This short story has been used as a peculiar work which describes several social aspects, especially during the reconstruction period in the southern society. The author has succeeded in expressing his opinions on the social matters in the start of 20th century such as feminism which is an outstanding notion within this short story. The issue of feminism has been a matter of debate even during the early past century. Even to date, some societies portray women as weak, feeble, and fragile subjects that should be under the supervision of men (Merino, 20). These societies consider women to be powerless in front of men such that the latter can entirely decide the movement and development of women. Patriarchal chauvinism is also a form of feminism under which women get disadvantaged. Gender roles is also an outspoken form of feminism in society; whereby duties seem to be specifically for either males or females.

Additionally, religion is negatively influencing the development of women especially with the puritan influence which portrays women as the acute sources of sin and evil in society. Nonetheless, this work will explore all these aspects of feminism as evident in the short story, “A Rose for Emily” (Faulkner, 13). Patriarchal chauvinism is one of the aspects of feminism. This is a notion which is used to explain the powerful and unquestionable domination of father towards the family affairs. The attitude expresses the sole authoritative holder who decides what comes in and goes out of the family. In this case, some societies still hold onto this mentality such that women development is maimed. From the short story, the author brings in a fictional city with a Southern society which has been influenced by the patriarchal chauvinism. Women are not worthy to hold any power in the social aspects such as the marital and family issues. According to the short story, Emily is a woman who lives in a feminist society where power is centered to the family’s father. She is under the full control of her father, Mr. Grierson, who cannot accept any form of opposition. The author says, “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the forehead, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip” (Faulkner, 15). This quote brings in the opinion that Emily’s father is harsh to her. He cannot even allow her to get married for he doesn’t welcome her possible suitors. Surprisingly, Emily is negatively affected by her father’s character such that she cannot allow the disposal of his corpse in the name of getting company. Puritan womanhood is another angle which can be used to explain the gorge of feminism in society. Some societies are tied to some religious beliefs such that females are portrayed as the sole sources of sin and evil (Powell, 43). By drawing their beliefs from the Biblical convictions that sin and evil entered to earth through a female, this belief has become a wound to females for they are blamed for the eruption of any social evil.

According to this short story, Emily is a victim of such societies that attribute women as the acute generators of world problems. She is deprived of accessing her individualities, inhibited, and discriminated by her father. Besides, she is heavily condemned in her quest to quench her sexual desires, which could have been solved by getting married. The fact that Emily’s father is strict to her, she is not free to develop her life for she is under the full control of a pierce father who beliefs in religious sentiment about purity. The author says, “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the forehead, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip” (Faulkner, 12). This shows the command in men towards women in this society even controlling their religious welfare. Surprisingly, after her father dies, Emily is negatively criticized by falling in love with a Yankee man, Homer Barron. The religion cannot allow this relationship to take place since it is against religious prescriptions; that demolish female’s welfare at the advantage of males. Women are generally regarded as weak and feeble by some societies. In such societies, women are just viewed as vessels that should not work to earn their daily living (O’Neill, 32). In such a case, females are not allowed to take some kind of work which is presumed to be of males.

Similarly, the southern society depicted in this short story resembles some of today’s societies that believe females are weak and hence they are deprived from participating in some tasks. For instance, it is a long-held notion that: manual work is only for males for they are portrayed as strong while the soft or less hard work is left for the females for they are seen as feeble. Evidently, Emily is not allowed to handle manual work especially after her father dies. The townsfolk even decide to take over Emily’s tax duties. Additionally, the townspeople give her sympathy aid alongside other needs. These caring actions by the society are proof that women are considered helpless if they don’t have men to take care of them. For instance, the city’s former mayor is depicted to have, “Fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron” (Faulkner, 14). However, Emily could also have worked to win her daily bread instead of staying indoors and being served by others. This is a societal belief which is linked to feminism even in some of today’s societies.

Some societies regard females as childlike and dependent. This attitude towards females diminishes female welfare in the society for it targets to benefit males (Renzetti, et al. , 51). Whenever society portrays women as dependence to men, it translates to the total incompetence of women in many life aspects such as politically, economically, and socially. Additionally, the same society look at females as childlike creatures who are immature to life matters and hence requires males’ intervention to make decisions. In this short story, this society is entirely looking at females in this perception hence displaying feminism. For instance, Emily cannot accept the deaths of her father and lover and decides to live with their corpses in order to get the sense of security. She also believes that staying with them will give her comfort. This attribute’s source may be translated to originate from the negative notion from the society regarding the females. It is clear that Emily has been taught by her harsh environment that men are everything that women need in order to live well, especially in the matters of her security. Henceforth, Emily’s actions are considered childlike yet she is an adult. The same society portrays women to be less intellectual by comparing them with children’s intellectual abilities. The city’s former mayor makes arrangements with Mr. Grierson on loans and future taxes for they believed that, “only a woman could have believed” (Faulkner, 14).

However, society is to be questionable on this impact of childlike and dependence of females as employed by author of this short story. Gender roles is another aspect of feminism which undermines female development in a society. Apart from dividing roles between the two genders, men are portrayed to do their work well while their counterparts joke around with their duties (Powell, 23). For instance, in this short story, the author brings out a perception that women are generally gossipers while men are dutiful. This perception is explored by Emily’s neighbor referring to people who came for her burial. He says, “Our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house” (Faulkner, 13).

Apparently, the duo gender has no affection for her yet women have been portrayed to be nosy. Additionally, the whole society is subjected to the negative notion of gender roles such that each gender is glued in specific works. For instance, men are blamed for failing to act when a foul smell oozes from Emily’s house, especially to be. Ladies says, “Just as if a man… any man … could keep a kitchen properly” (Faulkner, 13). This is a society that displays feminism in its aspect of roles. In conclusion, William Faulkner has successfully presented the notion of feminism through his short story, “A Rose for Emily”.

Although the work was under the influence of feminist movement which was witnessed during the reconstruction period, it still remains applicable in the modern era. Females have been diminished by society at the advantage of the males who greatly propel the naughty heights of feminism. Discrimination of women is dangerous for it creates unspeakable drift between the two genders. Gender roles has been the key indicator of this social vice whereby each gender acts as if certain duties have been assigned to them naturally. The general societal perception towards women is lame for it aims at demolishing the goodness of women. A society will be unfair if it discriminates females by portraying them as feeble, unintelligent, and impurity subjects amidst males (O’Neill, 45). Nonetheless, females have power to beat the odds of feminism by working together with feminists and other groups to fight the equity rights of females in the society.


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