William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily: A Southern Heritage Reflection
In William Faulkner’s short story, A Rose for Emily, the reader acknowledges the rude reality of Emily Grierson’s inability to be receptive of a new, dynamic and ever-changing world. Emily is not only lonely but also a mysterious lady, who lives in a large, post-civil war era home with her father. William Faulkner narrates this old and lonely lady’s story, precisely explicating how she remains stuck in her own timeframe.
Although her autocratic father died over thirty years earlier, Emily remains rigid and still holds onto her the way she lived her life before her father’s demise. According to Perry, Emily’s house, formerly luxurious white with scrolled balconies, has is now an excellent example of the most ghastly looking abode on the once most revered square in the town. Encroached with decay and dust, the house has left people in her city gossiping about her while at the same time pitying her lost soul. Perhaps due to loneliness and desperation, she soon gets in a romantic affair with Homer Barron, a young bachelor who works in a construction corporation paving footways on Emily’s city streets, Jefferson. The more the townspeople see them taking rides together, the more they talk and sympathize with her. In a dramatic twist of events, Emily’s public appearances with Homer lessen. One day Miss Emily is seen acquiring poison from a drug market.
“A Rose for Emily is fundamentally a tale of old versus new and tradition versus non-tradition. Faulkner brings these aspects into the limelight through the story’s main characters, Miss Emily and Homer. Right from the exposition of the text, it is clear that the story revolves around old versus new. Emily Grierson signifies the Old South. This essay will consequently discuss the cultural and historical significance of her character while drawing its examples from the traditional southern heritage.
Faulkner successfully creates a gloomy tone of “A Rose for Emily” particularly at the beginning of this epic tale chronicling the requiem of Miss Emily. With the story’s progression, the author takes the readers through distinctive moments in Miss Emily’s life, explicitly detailing how she was lost her own world as everything around her kept moving forward. Faulkner additionally employs foreshadowing, narrator point of view, and the southern gothic writing technique, to aid the reader form a visualization of Miss Emily, as well as the town. According to Rodgers, these elements also give the reader an insight into her environment a clear glimpse of her sanity.
Faulkner’s application of the southern gothic writing method is significant in the understanding of A Rose for Emily, as it helps the reader develop a mental depiction of the main character, Miss Emily. For instance, the town administration commissioned their envoys to discuss the levies that were owed, the author describes her as bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water (2182). A depiction such as this presents the reader with the impression that Miss Emily is not well. His witty elucidation that she seemed bloated accomplishes his desired effect on the anthology’s reader to attest how disgusting she emerged. This photographic representation, merged with the Faulkner’s dismal portrayal of the parlor (2182), creates in the reader the image of death. Moreover, the reader gets the feeling of being in an interment parlor. This is crucial as it helps to reinforce Faulkner’s narrative and depiction of Miss Emily..
A significant theme in ”A Rose for Emily,” is the deterioration of the Old South, which connects to the southern cultural values and economic structure before the eruption of the Civil War (Beyer 34). In the prewar South, society consisted of slaves, tenant farmers, merchants, and the landed nobility. Throughout this time, aristocrats abided by the southern codes of honor. While men took up their positions as providers and protectors, women had to keep the highest levels of morality. The Griersons in “A Rose for Emily,” belong to the landed gentry class. They exhibit the superiority complex and arrogance that befits their status (Perry, 161). Emily’s father, for example, clearly displays this stance by deeming no local suitor deserves his daughter as a wife. Emily too displays the same attitude, shunning society from her life even long after her father’s death.
Miss Emily’s reaction toward her tax obligations, association with the townspeople, and her understanding of death are explicit examples that she is stuck in the past although the south has embraced modernism. With the passing and retiring from civil service of older generation members, the younger generation expects Emily to pay taxes to the local government as there was no written rule exempted her from doing so. She responds that Colonel Sartoris clarified to her that she did not owe any tax to Jefferson. Although Sartoris died ten years ago, she still clings to what she believes “Colonel had given his word, and according to the traditional view, his word knew no death. It is the past pitted against the present-the past with its social decorum, the present with everything set down in ‘the books ( Rodgers, 121). With this, she passes as an excellent representation of a superb keeper of the southern customs and traditions. Despite the modern industrialization characterized by large-scale crop production, motorized vehicles, and the construction of the railroad, Emily remains stuck in the old south, rigidly holding onto the old social values and oblivious of the fact that modernity had grossly decreased the power and influence of the landed gentry.
In conclusion, William Faulkner just like other Southern Gothic novelists concentrated on portraying southern experience and history in the United States particularly in the periods following the Civil War. They employed grotesque imagery, themes, and symbolism. Faulkner uses all these in A Rose for Emily to highlight the text’s primary concern, traditions versus change. His portrayal of Emily brings into sharp focus the struggles the old south conservatives went through in their efforts to preserve their cultural values amidst widespread modernization and industrialization. William Faulkner ultimately shows that failure to acknowledge change leads to peril as Emily, the epitome of tradition remains lonely throughout her life, incapable of even accepting the death of her father. She presents those who would not abandon the customs whose time had passed and this subjects them to dire consequences. Her rigidity finally leads to her death as she kills the handsome Northerner Homer, and later, submits a tremendous deal of condemnation and succumbs. By her murdering homer she endorses the fact that the conservatives could do anything to ensure they do not acknowledge industrialization, represented by Homer.
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