A Rose For Emily and Other Short Stories
Analysis of the Responsibilities of the Hero in William Faulkner’s Book, a Rose for Emily
In the short story “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner Miss Emily Grierson is the protagonist. Emily Grierson is seen as an outsider in her town. The town Emily lives in is in the south and is changing and evolving from old traditions. Even as society presses Miss Emily to adapt and change to the new ways, she is defiant and refuses to do so. Miss Emily is a southern belle who is set in her ways. Faulkner describes Miss Emily Grierson’s character as an insubordinate, tragic figure, with a twisted desire for love.
Faulkner establishes that Emily is seen as an outsider by the rest of the townspeople when he writes, “WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, 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, which no one save an old man-servant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years.” Emily preferred to keep to herself and perhaps this is why the townspeople were so curious about her house and lifestyle. Emily was seen as a monument of the town. As the town adapted to society’s changes, Miss Emily did not. Faulkner describes her home by stating, “But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores.” Miss Emily had not changed a thing inside or outside her home. Faulkner also describes the inside of her home when he writes, “It smelled of dust and disuse—a close, dank smell.” Again he describes the amount dust by stating, “It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture. When the negro opened the blinds of one window, they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they sat down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun ray.” Emily Grierson’s lack of change throughout her home supports the fact that she is reluctant to change.
Faulkner describes a time period when Miss Emily gave china-painting lessons. Faulkner writes, “[s]ave a period of six or seven years, when she was about forty, during which she gave lessons in china-painting.” The time period that Emily Grierson gave painting lessons shows that she had some contact with the community during that time. Although, as the newer generation came, her students grew up and faded away. Thus, bringing Emily’s connection with the community to a halt.
Miss Emily is notorious for neglecting to obey the law. She preferred to do things her own way. The author depicts this several times throughout the short story. One example of this would be when Miss Emily is mailed a tax notice. She does not reply to the first mailed notice, nor the formal letter written to her by the sheriff’s office concerning the tax notice. Even when the mayor himself writes to Miss Emily, the tax notice is sent back without comment. The author depicts this when he writes, “A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all. The tax notice was also enclosed without comment.” Miss Emily later states that she has no taxes in Jefferson, regardless of the fact that things have now changed because Colonel Sartoris had been dead for almost ten years at this point. She shows her defiance again when she purchases arsenic poison. Miss Emily refuses to tell the druggist what the poison is for. The druggist sells miss Emily the poison anyway and labels it for ‘rats’. At this time, the townspeople believe that Miss Emily is going to kill herself and pity her even more so. Another example of her defiance is when Emily refused to have a mailbox placed at her residence. The author elaborates on this by stating, “When the town got free postal delivery, Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would not listen to them.” Again, Miss Emily shows just how set in her ways she really is, and how she prefers to do things her way.
As far as Faulkner describes in the short story “A Rose for Emily”, Miss Emily is an only child. The author does not speak about any siblings or Miss Emily’s mother. The author elaborates on Emily’s father to show the reader just how much Emily was her father’s daughter. Emily’s father kept her from having a husband or significant other up until his death and even after. Faulkner supports this two different times by writing, “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such” and “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.” When Emily’s father died she refused to let people remove his body from the home for three days. The author states this when he writes, “She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body.” Emily only had her father, and she adored him.
Emily was lonely after her father’s death, until she met Homer Barron. Homer Barron was a northern day laborer. Homer was the foreman of a construction company. It was not like a Grierson to think seriously of a day laborer. The townspeople looked down on Emily for forgetting “noblesse oblige”. It was rumor that Homer Barron wished to leave Miss Emily. Miss Emily would not have her love leave her like her father had left her. Miss Emily had an emotional attachment to Homer Barron and would do anything to keep him from leaving her. Miss Emily found the only solution to be killing Homer. The poison Emily purchased is used to kill Homer Barron. Emily’s father had kept her from being able to find love and now that she had found it, she refused to let it go. The townspeople and her father had interfered in Emily’s happiness, leaving her with an intense desire for love. Faulkner writes about this interference when he states, “Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people. The men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister—Miss Emily’s people were Episcopal—to call upon her.” When Emily’s ‘love’ was threatened by Homer Baron wanting to leave, she felt as if she had no choice other than killing him.
Not much is known about Miss Emily Grierson. Thus, she is seen as impervious. The townspeople know enough about her to pity her, but do not really know her personally. Miss Emily is an outcast because she refused to do things the way the rest of the townspeople did things. Killing Homer Barron shows Emily’s intense desire for love and what can happen when that opportunity is taken away.
Review of the Role of Emily as Illustrated in William Faulkner’s Book, a Rose for Emily
Dialectic Writing Entry #3
A Rose for Emily, a short story by William Faulker, is a timeless classic about a woman trapped in time. Miss Emily Grierson, who will be referred to as Emily, was a beautiful southern belle who never found a husband; her dad also died. These two events caused the traditional southern town to pity her. Luckily, her father was a Colonel, and when he died the mayor decided it was honorable for the town to grant her tax exempt status. Unfortunately, time caught on and the South modernized, giving them free postal service and paved roads. The new generation of townspeople did not approve of Emily’s tax status, and gave her many notices to contact them; she never responded. The only proof that she was still alive was the black man entering and leaving her house with a basket of food. Finally, the authorities confronted her, and she respond, “I have no taxes in Jefferson… Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourself.” After some brief exchanges, her servant Tobe, escorted them out. Later on in the story, the townspeople talk about how she obtains arsenic, simply because the druggist couldn’t say no. From there the townspeople thought she was going to kill herself, and they believed that was for the best. Suddenly she was seen with Homer Barron, an openly gay man, and they believed she would persuade him and marry him. Emily even bought a nightgown and a silver toilet set with, “H.B.” engraved on them. Surely they were to be married, but that wasn’t the case. One night Homer entered her house and was never seen again. Emily was only to be seen a few times after that event, growing older and greyer; her fading beauty was catching up to her age. Eventually, she fell ill and died. The town gave her a proper funeral and buried her. Finally the town can look into the room now one saw for decades, only to find a corpse in the nightgown Emily purchased for Homer Barron.
The traditional South, during the span of the 1800’s, was built on class. After they were defeated in the civil war, Reconstruction shook up their society and pushed them to modernize. The South was stubborn; their older generation held onto their traditional values, while the younger generations pushed toward the modern society, one held together by rumors and lies. Emily became a rumor near the end of her life; she was spoken about, but hardly seen. As a result, she became the town’s gossip, because no one understood her. All the townspeople did know was that they should pity her. Emily was a southern belle without a father or a husband and was defenseless back in late 1800’s because women were raised under the assumption that they would always have a man to take care of them. This understanding forced her to rot in doors for most of her days, with only a servant to keep her company. And as a result, the town could only speculate what had become of her.
The Elements of Gothic Fiction in The Yellow Wallpaper and a Rose for Emily
Gothic fiction is a genre whose “dominant mood is terror and suspense” and whose characters include an “ingenuous hero or heroine surrounded by mysterious or threatening individuals” (Kennedy 72). Greg Johnson’s article “Gilman’s Gothic Allegory: Rage and Redemption in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, outlines a number of gothic elements in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story that could also be found in William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily.” Both literary works use specific gothic elements such as a distraught heroine, repressive male antagonist and forbidden desires that are important to connect with the reader and allow them to feel the storyline.
A Distraught Heroine
A distraught heroine is defined by Johnson as someone who is subjected to confinement that led her to rebellion since she refuses a life of “unhappy, silent acceptance” choosing “madness over repression” (Johnson 3). In his article Johnson states that Gilman’s heroine’s experience should not be view as a “final catastrophe but as a terrifying, necessary stage in her progress toward self-identity and personal achievement” (Johnson 4). At first, the yellow wallpaper represents her view of herself, atypical and ugly, in her role as wife and mother “repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight” (Gilman 649). Nonetheless, by the end the narrator believes she has freed herself “I’ve got out at last,’ said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!’ (Gilman 656). In William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” some of the passages described through the story contribute to the reader’s compassion and sympathy towards Emily’s character “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will” (Faulkner 173). Emily had aspirations to find love and create a family but her father, who is an oppressive and strict figure, prevents her from growing as a woman. At thirty she is still single and later her father’s death further isolates her. The town is also guilty of her downfall since their prejudices and traditions put pressure on her “Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (Faulkner 167-168). Even though some of her actions are repulsed, since it’s discovered that she killed Homer Barron, her boyfriend, we can understand her motivation and the reasons why she took such drastic actions accepting “madness over repression” (Johnson 3) which fits in a profile of a gothic heroine.
Powerfully Repressive Male Antagonist
Another element in gothic fiction is the presence of a “powerfully repressive male antagonist” (Johnson 3). Johnson describes that in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” John is a “physician of high standing,” and a figure of dominance in every sense and represses the “hysterical tendency of women” (Johnson 5). Throughout the story, it is evident that the narrator is over ruled by her husband who believes that isolation is the best cure for her post-partum depression. John shows disrespect towards his wife, which made her believed that she is not on an equal level with him “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage” (Gilman 647). It’s also noticeable that she can’t question his methods regarding her own well-being. “I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus–but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad” (Gilman 648). Similarly, in Faulkner’s short story Emily struggles under the control of a dominating father who prevents his daughter from marrying. He rejects all her potential suitors since “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such” (Faulkner 172). Emily, therefore, is alone because of her father’s strict standards for a potential husband. His father’s death left her in denial and she agreed to release his body for burial after a lot of pressure, which highlights her isolation and solitude since her father was his influence on her ideas and actions. In both stories, the distraught heroines struggle with how to gain their independence back since a male figure appears to be holding them back.
Forbidden desire is found in Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “A Rose for Emily” By William Faulkner. In both stories, the main character’s desires are oppressed.
In the “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator is caught between the realistic world of her husband and her own imaginative one, so she attempts to save herself through writing to discover herself. However, John has given instructions that she shouldn’t tell stories or use her imagination because it might lead to a worse mental condition. But, the narrator thinks that writing her ideas would make her feel better. “I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me” (Gilman 649). Comparably in “A Rose of Emily,” the main character is torn between the rigorous traditional principles of the patriarchy and what she really wants, Emily never has a chance to control her own life, falling victim to her own repressed desires of love and companionship.
Gilman and Faulkner works have common elements found in gothic fiction such as a distraught heroine, repressive male antagonist and forbidden desire. A distraught heroine could be seen in both stories since each woman is subjected to confinement that led them to rebellion. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator went through a process of self-identity allowing to free herself. Emily from “A Rose for Emily” she had to accept madness over repression since she had to take drastic actions. Male dominance is something that is showed in both stories, because the main characters, at some point, feel they can’t be complete without a dominant male role in their life or that it was forced upon them. However, they both find a way out of this over powering rule. Forbidden desire is another important element since both women struggle with how to gain their independence back, in Charlotte Perkin’s story the narrator found that through writing she could feel better however she is instructed that she shouldn’t tell stories or use her imagination. William Faulkner shows us in his story that Emily’s desire of finding love are oppressed by his father which led her to a life of solitude. Both stories showed multiple elements of gothic fiction which help the reader have a better understanding of the story line.
The Masterful Descriptions in William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” tells a story of a woman who dies and explains the story of her life before her death. The story describes her life, the things she did and the funeral that was held after her death. The story starts be telling how everyone went to her funeral. The men attended because they respected her, and the women went because they wanted to see what was in the inside of her house. When Emily was alive, she did not pay taxes after her father died. The story talks about this a lot. The mayor did not make her pay, and when the next generation mayor came into office, he made her pay, yet she refused. The officers never arrested Emily, but they kept sending tax notices that went unanswered for a long period of time. The story also mentions how Emily claims that he father is not dead. This made people feel bad for Miss Emily, and people claimed she was crazy. The irony in the story is that Emily’s father corpse was kept inside the house.
The story ends describing what the house looked like at her funeral, how everything was covered in dust as if it had not been touched and the way her father looked in the untouched room that no one would open before Emily died. They say “They waiting until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it.” Inside laid her father’s body: gray, old and dusty. Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is a story of a man who breaks the law and dies. The story describes why the man was hanged, the life after death and his life before death. The irony in this story is great in the fact that that the entire story is a description of the man’s “great escape.” In reality they are describing what has happened in his afterlife after he is hanged. The story proceeds to tell about how he was freed from the rope that was supposed to kill him and how he gets away. He swims with all of his strength until he can reach the point where it is safe to get out and be free of the bullets. The author depicts beautiful scenery that ironically seems heavenly with “the fragrance of their blooms,” and “the wind made in their branches the music of Aeolian harps,” when describing the sounds this man hears. As the story continues through his long journey to what he believes to be home and gives the reader a sense of hope and relief when he at last sees his wife “looking fresh and cool and sweet” as he had thought of her trying to get home. After he lunges toward her to embrace her he feels an intense bluster on his neck and the only thing that Peyton Farquar can feel is a dead, cold silence. The kind where there is no returning. He now hangs dead from the Owl Creek Bridge.
The stories compare in so many different ways. The irony in both the stories correlates because they are both about death. Emily seems to believe that her father is not indeed dead, and that he is still alive. In a morbid sense, this is kind of like Peyton in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” because he dreams up an entire journey home in the seconds before he dies, a false sense of hope to escape. He would most likely want to believe that he is not about to die, as well as Emily believing that her father is alive. After Emily’s father dies, she does not leave the house. People never her see her out anymore. This leaves the reader thinking after it is revealed that he is still in the house, that she spent time with him as if he were alive.The other reason that these stories would compare for obvious reasons would be the love that Emily and Peyton have for their families. Emily acts as though her father is not dead, and isolates herself only because of the immense love that she had for her father. After this tragic death, she is consumed with him, and keeps memories such as his body and a portrait of him hanging in the house. The “iron-gray hair” that they find after finding his body shows that she still spent time with him, longing for him, as Peyton longed for his family. The way that even before his death he dreams of holding his wife and children, and the way he travels long and hard to reach home when he is about to die shows the commitment that he has to his family. The other most obvious reason that the stories are similar would be the fact that they both take place during a time of the war. Soldiers, officers or colonels hassle both Emily and Peyton. The reason for Peyton’s death was because he did not know the horseman was a Federal Scout. He broke the law and was hanged for it because he was not aware of the Scout’s identity. Peyton was made the example for the town, and because of this, he lost his family and his life. The officers and Mayor made Emily’s life easier at first giving her special treatment because of her father. She was made an idol in the town by the mayor: The brave soldier’s daughter who survived him. The new mayor tries to make her pay taxes just like any other law-abiding citizen, but Emily feels like she should not have to. Both stories use Emily and Peyton to show that they have to pay attention to laws and authority.
These stories both show a creepy and ironic look at the grieving process of death. Emily and Peyton both handle the situation of death in the same way. They both embrace the people who mean the most to them. Both stories depict the mind of a person dying and show the struggles that they go through when having to grip the harsh reality. It seems that both characters waiver in between what is reality and what is not. Emily shows this when it is revealed that she had been lying with her dead father. This is proven to be true when the people attending her funeral see the imprint of another head next to her father’s, and when they see the strand of gray hair. Peyton shows this through his hallucination of the trip home. The tone in both stories is eerie and serious. The tone in each story is very morbid, and leaves the reader feeling at the end of each story sorry for Emily and Peyton. Even though the story of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” actually tells in detail the way he feels about his emotions regarding death in a little more detail then in “A Rose for Emily,” the reader can still see by Emily’s actions the way she is feeling about this part of her life and her view of death.Regardless of whether Emily or Peyton broke laws in their lives, the story never denounces their actions. In a morbid perspective, the reader may even think that the narrator glorifies them by telling their stories. The authors in each of these stories also show that the characters have pride. They never shatter their spirit and think in the way that they are losing their family. Emily and Peyton both hold on to their loved ones by either keeping them physically or in their minds. Both stories leave the reader feeling glum as the stories end. Both stories also use flashbacks to help tell the story the way they author’s wanted it.
In “A Rose for Emily,” The author will often “jump” to different parts of Emily’s life to lead to the gruesome result at the end of the story. In “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” uses flashbacks the most out of the two stories. In the three parts of the story, the narrator does not follow the chronological order in order to give the reader a shocking surprise at the end of the story just like Emily’s story. Both stories also use foreshadowing to lead up to the end of the stories. In “A Rose for Emily” foreshadowing is used when the neighbors start to notice the smell of something dead coming from her house. In “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the author uses foreshadowing by describing the unrealistic situation that Peyton is in as well as when the narrator explaining that he has one last thought about his family. This thought indicates that he is about to perhaps have dream.
Reasons Why Emily Is Insane In “A Rose For Emily”
Jules verne once said, “Solitude and isolation are painful things and beyond human endurance. ” In “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner he reveals throughout the short story the unstable mind of Miss Emily Grierson. “A Rose for Emily” tells the story of a woman named Emily Grierson and her life in a nonlinear style. Faulkner talks about Emily living with her controlling father until he dies and the man she becomes falls in love with named Homer Barron until he disappears. By Faulkner writing, “A Rose for Emily,” he shows how isolation can drive a person to insanity through Emily. Her isolation and insanity came from her father and his death, the people in town, and the rejection of love from Homer Barron.
Emily was first isolated by her controlling father even though he was doing it because he loved her. Faulkner states that he “all the young men… had been driven away”(103) from her by her father. Even though her father may have isolated her out of love he kind of made himself her only social interactions. Emily became so attached to her father to where when he died she convinced herself that he “was not dead. She did that for three days”(103). She had people calling her to try and convince her to let them dispose of the body for days. After her father died she became unaware of things going on and things that had happened from never leaving her house. When Jefferson officials came to her house to try and get her to pay her taxes she replied with, “See Colonel Sartoris(103). ” He was the one who told Emily that the town would not make her pay taxes as an exchange for the money her father had loaned them. However, Faulkner informs the readers that Colonel Sartoris had been deceased for ten years. After her father’s death was when she started digging herself into a hole closer and closer to insanity.
After the isolation from her father she was then isolated because she lacked the cleanliness of her house and was judged by the people in town. They didn’t want to be seen with a person who wasn’t even able to upkeep their own house clean. The residents of Jefferson had to plan to “send her word to have her place cleaned up”(104) because of the awful smell that was coming from her home. From this one can understand that she had been isolated from Jefferson because no one wanted to associate with the lady with the smelly house in Jefferson. Emily’s servant, Tobe, became her single source of conversation everyday.
Emily’s road towards insanity cannot be put fully on her father or the people in town alone. The final breaking point of insanity for Emily was Homer Barron who did not feel the same way about her as she did him. Emily fell in love with Homer and saw him as a way to start interacting with some of the people in town again. The residents talked about how “Miss Emily had been to the jeweler’s and ordered a man’s toilet set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece”(106). One can conclude from this that she really liked Homer and probably dreamed of marrying him. However, she later realized her dreams were not going to happen when heard that Homer said “he liked men”(106) and consequently, she went to the druggist and bought arsenic to kill him with. At this point of the story, I saw Emily as just a cold-blooded killer but what made her go from a cold-blooded killer to insane was the fact that she slept next to Homer’s decaying corpse for decades.
Faulkner shows us how easy it is for someone in total continuous isolation to go down the route towards insanity. Through his story as readers we can learn that isolation can be a harmful thing so you should include yourself in thing in the world. You can take away a lesson to not let isolation take away your sanity.
Novel Analysis of A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner: A Story of Loneliness that Lead to Tragedy
Using the historical critical reading strategy, an analysis shows why and how women cope with loneliness and life in the early 1800’s and the present. In William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” Faulkner shows the life of the character Emily dealing with life and loneliness which is in some ways can be different and the same in some areas from how women deal with these issues today. Emily shakes up the town with her unwillingness to comply with changes and upgrades as the town tries to become current with the times. Although times have changed tremendously from the 1800’s, there are still some people today that still embrace that type of behavior and still deny change. Emily meets and dates a man that caused issues with the town in the process and causes a dilemma in the towns-people and society views. Emily chose to overcome her loneliness in her own way but; however, no one knew how far she would take it to do so.
In the beginning of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, the author acknowledges that Emily has passed away and the entire town has attended the funeral. Faulkner starts out explaining that Emily was a very closed woman who only had a relationship with her father. Emily was a young woman so close to her father that she was dominated by his strict values. Emily’s relationship with her father affected her relationship with the town-people, especially men. Many men that tried to call upon Emily, but her father denied them the right of doing so. She ends up lonely and alone when he passes away. “We trace her struggles with personal grief, a restricted social life, socio-economic decline, and romantic misfortune, a long history of trauma and repression” (Argiro, 2011). When Emily’s father died, because he was the only person she ever had in her life, therefore, she found it hard to let go. The town-people came to her requesting her to please release his body for burial; however, she kept telling them her father was not dead. She made them wait three days before she would finally allow the town to obtain the body and they did a quick burial. She was described as having iron gray hair and after her father dies, she cuts it and is described as looking like a little girl. It is obvious Emily is having a hard time with her loneliness due to her father being the only person she had in her life. In this present time, some of the behaviors Emily exhibited are still common today; however, it has not been reported that a person has held on to the corpse of a deceased parent because they did not want to be lonely. Often there are times where women experience being lonely because they are unable to find or have a successful relationship due to the relationship or non-existed relationship she had with her father. Where Emily cut off her hair, there are women today that have done worse things to their body because of their loneliness and their inability to handle it. Although today there are many resources to help women to cope with the loss of a love one or being alone, some just choose not to accept it. These women believe they are strong enough to handle their problems on their own. Strong women give the impression to have a larger reason of their own intervention, and a positive disposition: she believes things will improve, and she is able to assist in making this a reality. “Resilience, paradoxically, is an attribute that may be harder to acquire in societies where many everyday risks have been greatly lessened” (Reeves, 2006).
People from the Alderman’s office approached Emily one day after several notices had been sent regarding her taxes. Emily told the people that there were no taxes and that they needed to deal with her father regarding those matters. They explained to Emily that her father had been dead for over 10 years and that would be impossible. Emily refused to deal with them any longer and summoned for her “Negro” to come and escort them out of the house. Emily rejected complying with the Alderman’s office and the Sheriff’s office as well (Meyers). She refused to answer or reply to any of many letters that had been sent to her regarding the taxes. The townspeople also complained of a smell coming from the home. “When neighbors complained of the stench issuing from her house, a judge refused to make a public issue of it since one does not “accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad’” (Dilworth, 254). Emily’s behavior is peculiar and points toward the mysterious. Her stubbornness extends from running off the town’s city representatives by refusing to pay her taxes to declining to let them attach metal numbers above the door of her home and connecting a mailbox to it (Argiro). Emily’s behavior was derived from the objective and strict behavior of her father. Now that he has passed, she still remains in that shell. “Americans have a lot of attitude about grief; what doesn’t work the them is labeled “morbid,” “macabre,” or “weird’” (Matthews, 129, 2002). Each time a town official would go to Emily’s home regarding the taxes she owed, Emily was rude, would not talk to them, and had the “Negro” escort them to the door. In Emily’s case, “Similarly, women’s way of thinking and knowing are subjected to dominator values which discredit both women’s intellectual capacities and coerce women to shape their way of knowing into dominator acceptable modes” (Morris, 576). She was so dominated by her father’s orders for so long, she knew nothing but dominance. Today some of that behavior still exists, especially in older people. Regardless of how much society grows and changes, there are some people not willing to advance with world and accept the change. This is certainly most true with older people. No matter how much the world evolves, the want to continue living the lives they were taught.
The town-people whispered and constantly talked about Emily a lot. The town was starting to advance and began construction on the sidewalks. The head of the workers is a man named Homer Baron. Throughout her lifetime Emily’s father never allowed her to become involved with anyone. Therefore, because of this she rebels by becoming involved with a man she knew her father would never approve. Many fathers these days don’t have control over who their daughters marry, nor do the daughter allow their fathers to influence their decision. Some fathers want to meet and get to know his daughters intended, especially if they are talking marriage. This happens often in the south. Emily takes an interest in Homer, the Northerner labor worker supervisor. She knows this would upset her father if he was still alive, but she dates him anyway to ease her loneliness. The towns-people are concerned and elated that Emily would date a “Yankee”. That was just not done in those days. After Emily and Homer start dating “the ladies in the town and her cousins from Alabama work to sabotage her relationship with Homer” (Akers, 2002). They were unsuccessful at their plot and Emily and Homer continued to see each other. They could be seen riding around town in a little yellow-wheeled buggy on Sundays. Most of the town was upset that she would even consider dating a Northerner, but at the same time, some were happy that she had someone in her life. Emily and Homer saw so much of each other that she began telling people that they were getting married. “Yet Homer’s role in Emily’s life warrants questions about who and what he really is and whether his intensions are genuine, since by his own admission, “He was not a marrying man’” (Argiro, 446, 2011).
Emily ends up marrying Homer and Homer goes into the home and is never seen by anyone again. Each time anyone from the town visits, she refuses to talk to them and has them escorted out the door. The only person the towns-people ever seen coming and going from the home was black helper going to and from the market. As reported, in the beginning, several of the neighbors reported a smell coming from the home. Because the judge refused to do anything about the smell the neighbors took it among themselves to do something about it. Eventually the smell went away, so the neighbors assumed what they did worked. After Emily died and after the funeral, a couple of the ladies from the town went to the home. The black helper was there and directed them to a door of a room. The ladies went inside the room and were stunned at what they saw. In the bed was a corpse that looked as if it had been there for a long time. The corpse is believed to be the remains of Homer Baron. In the story it mentions Emily going to the hardware store to purchase arsenic. The clerk was supposed to ask Emily the reason for the purchase, but never did. As the women moved closer to the body, they noticed a single gray hair on the pillow. Emily had been alone all her life because of her father’s denial to allow her to be with anyone else. According to (Aker) “Emily takes the offensive by poisoning Homer, so he can’t abandon her” (2002). “Not only is it generally assumed that she killed Homer but that she slept next to the deteriorating body every night for decades” (Sniderman, 2007). “Women today represent wounded healers. ’Suppressed and yet embodied in all women are the very life-giving, sustaining, and transformational forces which the dominator culture fears” (Morris, 577, 1995). There have been cases of women killing men because they wanted to leave them, but never of a woman keeping the man’s corpse in fear of being alone.
In conclusion, Emily was a young woman so close to her father that she was dominated by his strict values. It is obvious Emily is having a hard time with her loneliness due to her father being the only person she had in her life. In this present time, some of the behaviors Emily exhibited are still common today. Emily rejected complying with the Alderman’s office and the Sheriff’s office as well (Meyers). Today some of that behavior still exists, especially in older people. Regardless of how much society grows and changes, there are some people not willing to advance with world and accept the change. Emily rebels by becoming involved with a man she knew her father would never approve. Many fathers these days don’t have control over who their daughters marry, nor do the daughter allow their fathers to influence their decision. After Emily’s funeral a couple of the town’s ladies were directed by the black servant to a room. Once inside the were stunned at what they saw. In the bed was a corpse that looked as if it had been there for a long time which is believed to the remains of Homer Baron. According to (Aker) “Emily takes the offensive by poisoning Homer, so he can’t abandon her” (2002). There have been cases of women killing men because they wanted to leave them, but never of a woman keeping the man’s corpse in fear of being alone.
Main Message Of “A Rose For Emily” Novel
Death and Change in “A Rose for Emily”
In “A Rose for Emily,” a short story by William Faulkner, Miss Emily is a very stubborn character, reluctant to accept change into her life. She insists on isolating herself from the rest of her town rather than modernize, and refuses to acknowledge either her father’s passing or her lover, Homer Barron’s, death and decay. Emily’s actions show us how death and change are related. Emily isn’t as concerned with death, as she actively ignores both men’s passings, as she is with change. Whether the offending incident be losing the authoritative rule of her father, potentially being abandoned by her lover, or implementing a post office, Emily does not accept change. When Emily keeps Homer’s poisoned corpse in her bed and her life, we see her choice to surround herself with death in order to avoid change. The ending image of a strand of Emily’s hair laying next to Homer Barron’s rotting corpse effectively illustrates the balance between death and change in Emily’s life.
Miss Emily symbolizes the Old South’s reluctance to change and eventual demise. The Old South resisted the industrial changes from the North, attempted to keep their traditions and customs alive. Similarly, old Miss Emily and her old house resist the rest of the town’s modernization, acting as the last remnants of the Old South in her town. When the whole town got postal delivery, Emily alone “refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it” (414). Both Miss Emily and the Old South struggled to uphold their traditions and both were eventually silenced. Through the years, the townspeople’s tolerance for Emily’s adherence to seem to decline, eventually leaving her to die and become obsolete to the rest of the community. People attend her funeral as “a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument”(409). Emily seems to be a “monument” of the Old South, representing its decay with her own downfall. She was the last standing reminder of the South in her town, and she slowly gives in to death, just as the South did. “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (409). The words tradition and hereditary indicate that Emily exemplifies the old customs of the South, thus representing their demise as she herself loses her place in society. The Old South died out due to societal changes, just as Emily was isolated from her town until her death because she wouldn’t conform to the altered standard of living.
Emily reacts to her father’s death by simply rejecting the change. Emily attempts to keep her father present in her life long past his death, refusing to accept his altered state of mortality. While he was alive, Emily’s father had always controlled her life. He turned away suitors and claimed charge of everything in the household, keeping southern customs very much alive. Emily does not accept her father’s passing. Immediately following his death, Emily met the inquiring townspeople at her door, “dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. she did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body” (411). Emily tries to ignore death by holding onto her father’s corpse and shows how fearful she is of change by acting as though he’s still living.
Though she is eventually coerced into accepting her father’s death on a physical level, by giving up the body, he seems to stick with her far past this incident. It’s possible to tell that the death of Emily’s father was an important event to her because it is mentioned a few times as a marker in time, or referred to as an incident that changed things, such as “the summer after her father’s death” (412), or “after her father’s death” (410). The crayon portrait of Emily’s father (410) leads to the idea that he still possesses control over her life, even in his death. The childish medium suggests that her father’s presence could be affecting her character in a regressive sort of way, stifling her growth without him. This creates an interesting relationship between the past and the present, allowing someone from the past to impose their will on the present. Emily seems to be willingly haunted by her father’s presence, rather than accepting the change. Emily had trouble accepting his death and the consequential changes.
Emily had the same problem accepting change with the death of her lover, Homer Barron. First, she killed him to make certain that he could never leave her, thus their life together would never change. Then, her extreme attempt to hold on to Homer leads to a grotesque living situation between Emily and her steadily rotting husband. Emily tries to use death to her advantage, to avoid change, but it provides her with a warped, though admittedly stagnant, reality. Refusing to acknowledge Homer’s death in the usual way, Emily keeps him near her and lives with a lifeless corpse as though he were a real husband. She may even see his deathly and static state as enticing. Homer’s “profound and fleshless grin” (415), bestowed upon him by death, seems to associate a state of enlightenment with death. Profound, hinting towards a higher understanding, paired with fleshless, a feature only achieved in death, indicates a state of bliss found in losing life. The neverending grin of death could seem enticing to someone as resistant to change as Emily.
The ending image of “the indentation of [Homer’s] head” next to Miss Emily’s “long strand of iron gray hair” (415) effectively represents Emily’s aversion to change and tendency toward death. As the reader realizes that, not only did Emily murder Homer to keep him close to her, she lived around his lifeless body, sleeping next to him every night, we see how Emily would prefer to surround herself with death than accept change in her life. Rather than allow Homer to leave her or sleep anywhere but next to her, Emily places him permanently by her side. Choosing to sleep next to a corpse night after night shows how far Emily will go to avoid change. Emily cannot seem to accept any changes in the story. She rejects the town’s innovations, her father’s death, and Homer’s death. The closing image of a the strand of hair laying next to the withered remains of a man represents the portrayal of Emily as a woman who would rather consistently sleep next to her decrepit, lifeless lover than face the changing reality death brings.
“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner describes the peculiar life of Miss Emily, an unmarried and allegedly wealthy woman who is the talk of the town of Jefferson. Faulkner’s use of particular literary devices can be observed throughout the entire story. He carefully uses each literary device to develop the theme in a way that is not immediately obvious to the average reader. This exceptionally clever use of literary devices is what makes
“A Rose for Emily” such a brilliant and famed story in the world of literature. Some of the most interesting literary devices that Faulkner weaves into “A Rose for Emily” are setting, symbolism, and imagery, which he uses to emphasize a theme based around the progression of time. Faulkner cunningly uses the setting of the story to place an emphasis on the theme of time. The beginning of the story, set in an American town during the late 1800s to early 1900s, appears to be established around the mystery and scrutiny of Miss Emily’s home, which is where a great deal of the story takes place.
The house, as described by the narrator, is a “big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the lightsome of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street” (Faulkner 148). From this description, it is apparent that Miss Emily’s home is of an older style and has been standing for a substantial amount of time, which signifies the old age of Miss Emily and her time spent in the town. The narrator continues, stating that “garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting it’s stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and gasoline pumps – an eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner 148).
This statement reveals to the reader that Miss Emily’s home has remained standing throughout times of change and development and is now surrounded by more modern homes and establishments. The disapproving tone of the narrator serves as a suggestion that the decayed home of Miss Emily is an undesirable reminder of the past, which emphasizes Faulkner’s theme of time. The house also reflects that Miss Emily herself has not adapted to the changes that have occurred in Jefferson and has been engulfed by the phenomenon that is time. Faulkner uses a great deal of symbolism within his work. It can even be said that the house itself doubles as the setting and a symbol because of the way it represents the past. However, some of the other symbolic objects within the story are smaller and less obvious than Miss Emily’s home. For example, it is stated Miss Emily wore a long gold chain around her neck with an “invisible” watch at the end (Faulkner 149).
Any kind of watch or clock is an obvious representation of time. But this watch, which was hidden underneath her belt, continuously ticking, is immensely symbolic of time and one of its most unpleasant effects: death. The watch is purposely placed underneath her clothing with each tick representing the heartbeat of Miss Emily. As time progresses, both the watch and Miss Emily’s heart will stop. The fact that the watch is hidden symbolizes that death is not always foreseen. Another symbol Faulkner uses to symbolize the passing of time is dust. At the end of story Faulkner uses dust to show the amount of time that had passed between Miss Emily’s creation of a creepy bridal shrine and the discovery of Homer Barron’s corpse. “Among them lay a collar and tie, as if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon the surface a pale crescent in the dust,” states the narrator (Faulkner 156).
Faulkner does not use dust to provide description only. Although the collar and tie appear to have just been removed, the dust is there to symbolize that the collar and tie were actually removed long ago. The dust is truly a symbol of time and ageing as is leaves its mark on all of the stationary items within Miss Emily’s home. Faulkner uses imagery abundantly throughout his piece. One of the cleverest uses of imagery that Faulkner uses to portray time is his routine use of the color gray. The color gray is typically associated with aging, and Faulkner uses it to embody just that. He shows the reader how time has progressed throughout the story by describing the color of Miss Emily’s hair in different shades of gray. During the flashback, the narrator states, “When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray” (Faulkner 154). Then the narrator states, “During the next few years, it grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even pepper-and-salt-iron gray…” (Faulkner 154).
Lastly the narrator describes Miss Emily’s hair as remaining “that vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man” (Faulkner 154). Faulkner even describes the aging of Miss Emily’s servant, stating “Daily, monthly, yearly, we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped, going in and out with the market basket” (Faulkner 155). The way Faulkner persistently and liberally uses the color gray in this portion of the text allows the reader’s mind to create images of Miss Emily’s servant and herself becoming more and more aged, thus creating an illusion of the passage of time. Similar to the use of dust, the color gray seems like it is merely used for description. However, Faulkner carefully chose to use this color within his story in order to perpetuate the theme of time. Faulkner uses the setting of
“A Rose for Emily” as well as symbolism and imagery to portray a theme of time progression. Throughout the story, Faulkner uses different entities such as the house, the watch, dust, and the color gray to creatively create an illusion of the passing of time. Each item uniquely represents some sort of element of time, whether it is change, death, or ageing. Ultimately, Faulkner’s use of such literary devices are the most fascinating part of his work. Upon close examination, the reader is able to interpret every single line of “A Rose for Emily” in a way that is only possible because of Faulkner’s ingenious writing style.
Death and Decay in A Rose for Emily, a Short Story by William Faulkner
The Subtleties of Death
In “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, the ultimate fate of Miss Emily and her lover are foreshadowed by understated elements in the text, such as descriptions of Miss Emily and her community, events in her life, and neighborhood gossip.
The description of Miss Emily and her surroundings implies that the ending involves death and decay. For example, Miss Emily’s house is described as “lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay” (281). From the beginning, the sexual nature of rotting is revealed. The abnormal use of the word “coquettish” to describe deterioration implies their significant relationship later in the text. Furthermore, the description of Miss Emily in the later years, with “hair of an active man” personifies Homer Barron whose existence has been fulfilled solely by her imagination and persistence (288). Juxtaposed after Faulkner discloses that Homer disappears, this detail hints at the deep involvement Miss Emily has with Homer. The details of the house and herself foresee a future of perish and possession, leading to the belief that there is more to the story other than a poor, lonely woman.
The jumbled sequence of the events conveys perspectives from different time periods of the story, providing insight on events that have already occurred. For instance, in the dialogue between the druggist and Miss Emily, she declares, “I want arsenic”, and refuses to claim why (286). This event is one of many that appears suspicious and does not disclose its significance immediately. Chronologically placing this scene after the funeral and the mention of the smell adds to the mystique aura of Miss Emily’s character development. Furthermore, when Faulkner explains Miss Emily’s relations with her neighbors, he mentions that she “had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell” (283). Although the specifics of the smell are not stated, its mention raises questions about future events of the story. It allows consideration for the cause of the smell and its connection to future events. Lastly, when Faulkner writes “And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron,” the elements from previous parts of the story gain more meaning and significance (287). Emphasized by the time that passes between Homer Barron’s move into the house and Miss Emily’s death, Homer’s disappearance progresses from a fleeting concern to an odd circumstance. Due to its delayed appearance in the text, this quote implies more about the smell mentioned in the beginning of the story, and leads the reader to anticipate the demise of Homer. The next time the neighborhood sees Miss Emily after Homer’s disappearance is when her hair is gray and she has grown much fatter. Conclusive from the evidence of the rare appearance of Miss Emily and the increasingly rare occurrence of the Negro, the fate of Mr. Barron appears grim.
The ending of “A Rose for Emily” is unexpected due to the subtle nature of the foreshadowing details. From first impression, details about Miss Emily’s appearance, house, and the dialogue do not gain significance until connected to the final paragraph, where it is revealed that Homer Barron has been dead for over forty years. When the entire truth is known, these details become more prevalent in the structure of the story.
“A Rose for Emily” contains many elements throughout the text that suggest the ending of the story through the filter of her neighborhood gossip circle. Although the truth is not explained until the final paragraph, the abundance of context clues shed light on the real life of Miss Emily and Homer Barron, explaining how overseeing subtleties of life can cause a misunderstanding of the bigger picture.
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.