“A rose for Emily” by William Faulkner The purpose of this research is to investigate the short story “A rose for Emily” written by William Faulkner. Faulkner narration is straightforward and told through the eyes of a citizen of the town of Jefferson, Mississippi. The narrator explains in details what the people in the town were gossiping and how they has become witnesses of the life and death of Miss Emily Grierson. Seventy years old spinster she once for a brief moment was supposed to marry Homer Barron, a Yankee. It is mentioned hastily that he liked men. And then suddenly he disappeared, leaving Emily alone. The readers were told that Emily bought arsenic and that a strange odor appeared around the house for a few weeks and then disappeared. During the years Miss Emily isolated herself from the society in town and only after she dead did they discovered in a locked room the decomposed body of her alleged fiancé. The grey hair they found signified that Miss Emily had been laying near the dead body of her partner for years. Barnet et al. (1997) consider that we live in a world filled with symbolism. Symbols do not have a clear meaning and possesс a deep spiritual structure embedded in society and culture. Meanings intermingle with expressions and create ambiguities. Symbols are fragmented and present different pictures, evoke different senses and stand for different situations (Barnet et al). Every moment is written or spoken sign and in order to grasp its meaning we have to decode its symbols. The same is with stories and literature. They stand for past, present and future experiences which we have to carefully decipher.
Many different interpretations can be represented in analyzing the social, economic and historical contexts of Faulkner short story. Fetterly (1999) justifies Faulkner use of the grotesque to describe his story. She proposes that one looks at the story from a feminist perspective. Then “one notices that the grotesque aspects of the story are a result of its violation of the expectations generated by the conventions of sexual politics (Fetterly 50).” Fetterly (1999) continues that the end shocks not only by the suggestion of necrophilia, but also by the fact that a woman is capable of committing a murder of a men. This story is not about the conflict between the old and the new, the change of social order, or the competition between the South and the North. This is a story of the sexual conflict below the surface (Fetterly). The locked rook found after Emily death is a mirror image of the world that men created. Fetterly (1999) observes that a woman betrayed and victimized by the social norms and sexual politics receives her revenge and source of power back murdering her alleged fiancé. Faulkner story represents how men attitude towards women, being oppressed and servile turned back upon the men. “The perverse, violent, and grotesque aspects of the sight of Homer Barron rotten corpse in a room decked out for a bridal and now faded and covered in dust reflects back to them the perverseness of their own prurient interest in Emily (Fetterly 52).” The town implicitly violates and invades her life and now their curiosity about the idol and lady had transformed into a grotesqueness of symbolic artifact – Homer Barron death body of forty years. Brooks (1996) supports the idea that Miss Emily was driver up by the town to keep up her appearances, and that to murder her fiancé was preferable than the thought that she might have been deserted. In this way Brooks (1996) reveals Miss Emily as “romantically obsessed”, though the expression of this love has pathological consequences. For him there is ambiguity in ‘A Rose for Emily”. Love has taken extremes and had passed the line from love obsession to actual insanity. The character of Miss Emily love enforces her to poison her lover. Brooks (1996) links this love obsession to the concept of country love which penetrated the South. Brooks (1996) believes that Miss Emily deeds are consequence of her strong character and independence. She refuses to accept the criticism from the town when she is courting around with Homer Barron. She refuses to pay taxes long after Colonel Sartoris advises her that she is not obliged to do so. She refuses to be left by her fiancé and that is why she poisons him (Brooks 191). Brooks (1996) admires Miss Emily, because she demonstrates personal strength and embodies the independent woman. She objects to conform to the social norms and opinions at a time when women were required to observe social manners. Brooks (1996) explicates that the moral lesson of the story is a warning against elite “heroic isolation pushed too far ends in homicidal madness (191).” Faulkner (1996) divides characters and space into present and past. The Yankee, Emily suitor, the new Board of Alderman, “the next generation with its more modern ideas” (178) portray the present. However, Emily lives totally in the past. She bluntly says that she had no taxes in Jefferson as advised by Colonel Sartoris, who has been dead for nearly 10 years. When her suitor tried to escape from her into the new world, she refuses to let him go and murdered him so that he could stay with her in the past. Blythe (1996) provides a unique and shocking motive why Miss Emily had poisoned Homer Barron. Blythe (1996) think that Emily has discovered that her fiancé was indeed a homosexual. There are various clued within the plot that leads us to accept this conclusion. Barron “liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks’ Club-that he was not a marrying man” (Faulkner 181).” So Miss Emily killed him to “save face” (Faulkner 192).Brooks and Warren (1979) state that the distinction between illusion and reality has faded away in the story. Miss Emily denies to “admit an external set of codes”. Brooks and Warren (1979) say that the greatest motivation for Emily to kill her lover is her refusal to take the inevitability of changes. She obstinately refuses to submit to any transformation of the order that exists for her. Social pressure further isolated Emily character and necessity to hide and conceal her pain and misunderstanding of the surrounding. If one can resists change, therefore he should be prepared to embrace death (Brooks and Warren). Literally this happens in the story. She embraces the rotten corpse of her lover for years. Also after the death of her father she rejects to give away his body and kept it for herself for few days until they quickly buried him.
A lady should maintain a rose between the pages of her personal history of the South. Emily hides her personal rose in the face of her dead lover. Hopelessly out of touch with the real, changing modern world Emily creates thing to keep her superiority over time (Brooks and Warren). The unthinkable is committed so that she can preserve the correct order in her life. She plots a murder to produce a never-ending love story. Moreover, she can not be publicly humiliated and descend from the pedestal of her perfection. Homer Barron is represented as a man from the working class in the North. He is dangerous for Emily, because he is not the marrying type. He is sociable, enjoys drinking and spending time with other men. Miss Emily in contrast is an aristocrat, an idol, the reputation of a lady is all she lives by and she meticulously follows the code of honor. Social norms do not allow her to ruin her appearance, because this will expose her real face. That is why “[s]he demands that the situation be settled on her own terms” (Brooks 191). Emily self-respect has been violated, however she will not pity herself over a lost love. Instead, she reacts in the only possible way – preserves her social image and keeps her love. It is grotesque, but society made her what she is. She kept her true love near her, and for a lifetime. Homer Barron embodies the wild virility. Presumably, Miss Emily and Homer had an affair. Unfortunately, their relationship can not last, neither their marriage is feasible. Keeping a powerful image of her father and his dead body Emily is forced to distrust the living body of Homer. This also reminds her of her dead father (Brooks and Warren). Brooks and Warren (1979) comment that it seems that Faulkner is disgusted and raptured at the same time by the physical love and strong feelings which a woman can feel. It is unclear though, which prevails – her strong affections or her desire to preserve her immaculate, social image. For Howe (1962) Faulkner story might be regarded as a parable, even though is raises sharp repulsion, because it plays with the power of shock. The storyline is placed somewhere between the decay of human sensibility and the wrongdoing of love perversion. Howe (1962) poses that the plot is carefully developed to reach the climax of the disturbing final sentence. Readers are given hints on which they can reckon the possible ending of the story. First, her abusive father, then her aristocratic posture, after that the turning down of all suitable candis by her father. Finally, her homosexual fiancé, and Emily buying the arsenic – all these factors prepare the reader what might have happened. The moral of Faulkner story merges with the social, aesthetic and economic terms at that time. The moral point is that people are breakable and not even society and its values and “proper manners” can change the fact that people differ in what they look like in public and what they look like when left by themselves. Exterior appearances are socially constructed. That is why it is so moving and traumatic when one faces with the inner world behind the social image.
Barnet, Sylvan, et al., eds. Literature for Composition: Essays, Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 1997. PrintBlythe, Hal. “Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily.'” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 191-193.
Brooks, Cleanth. “On ‘A Rose for Emily'”. Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 190-191.
Brooks, Cleanth and Warren, Robert, Understanding Fiction. Prentice Hall, 3 edition. 1979.Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 177-183.
Fetterly, Judith. “A Rose for ‘A Rose for Emily.’” In William Faulkner: critical assessments, Henry Claridge, volume IV, pp.50 – 65. 1999. Howe, Irving, William Faulkner: A Critical Study, 2nd ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1962. p..265. PAGE\* MERGEFORMAT 7