Reading the story A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, everybody is unintentionally looking for the secret sense hidden in the story. Story contains many concealed meanings, thus it is very interesting to analyze. The plot of the story is hackneyed and at the same time it is very innovative. The author applies different literary devices to make readers puzzled and thrilled. There are a great amount of interpretations, and for readers they still remain discrepant. The character of the story Homer Barron was murdered by the main heroine Emily Grierson. This situation injured Emily and her world was divided into before and after. Representing the main character the author makes an allusion to the New South. By such type of personification and allusion the author shows the New South as independent and mighty fighter for rights. The story is worth-discussing, thus the given will try to answer the question why Emily arouses sympathy with readers notwithstanding that she is a murderer.
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The first issue that will be discussed is the correlation of past and present as well as their confrontation. The main heroine Emily still lived in her past, thus she suffered a lot. She was not ready to get rid of the ties, which were important for her. From this side the murder of Homer can be easily explained. She did it intentionally. He was her lover and she wanted to keep him and the feeling, so the best way to do that was to murder him. The reader can feel a motif of independence and superciliousness. Emily scorned all the tittle-tattles about her private and social life that appeared in the town. Her relations with her beloved Homer belonged to her private life and the main problem of her social life was her refusal to pay taxes that became the subject of gossips. The act of murder can be interpreted as a symbol of independence. We can notice that this independence is also portrayed in her appearance. “She carried her head high enough – even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness” (p.82). Iron-grey hear of Emily arouses a number of associations. Emily tried to live and conduct her personal life without any superstitions.
The important question is what the hidden sense is and how it was depicted by the author. There are a lot of interpretations that refer to the plot of this story, its concealed meaning and secret sense. It is essential one should pay special attention to the methods and devices, which were applied by the author to create intrigue. Faulkner is not only a great narrator, but also a master of symbolism and characterization (O’Connor). It was mentioned that the iron-grey hair of Emily symbolized strength and independence. Another important symbol is the rose. It is one of the main and the most significant symbols in the story. If to analyze the story deeper it is possible to see that characters of the story are the prototypes of Old and New South (Fetterley 194).
In order to understand the character of the main heroine better, it is essential to pay special attention to Homer Barron; the author depicted him as one of those men who liked to drink with younger guys. Women usually do not like such behavior and Emily was not an exception: “”She will persuade him yet,” because Homer himself had remarked–he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks’ Club–that he was not a marrying man. (p.126)”. One of the reasons for murder was Emily wish to kill or to vanish that depraved part of her beloved man character. She suffered a lot as many women appear in such situation: “she will kill herself”; and we said it would be the best thing. When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said, “She will maw him.” Then we said, “She will persuade him yet,” because Homer himself had remarked . . . that he was not the marrying kind” (p.126). Here we can see that Emily was not only independent, but also tended to idealize the world and people in it. She wanted to change something in the character of her beloved but could not (Brooks and Warren). She had her own certain principles and beliefs her beloved did not correspond to. Thus, the murder was the only way out in her opinion. She was rather cruel, she organized the murder carefully. Emily followed details, for example she put the suit of Homer cautiously on the chair. By this gesture she seemed to duplicate Homer. And the thing she killed was not Homer but the spoiled part of his nature. If not to analyze the reasons of her behavior and the hidden sense of such representation, it may seem that she was mad (Blythe 192).
Emily is a very enigmatic character. The author gives a chance to the reader to see and analyze the character only by means of allusions. We cannot understand the motives of Emily by her acts or thoughts, we can rather reveal them learning about the mood of the town. The narrator wanted the reader to live with the characters and have the same feelings. Readers like Emily due to her defiance and the contradictions, which are the peculiarities of her own character. One of the great benefits the reader has is the opportunity to notice Emily unique nature. In some parts of the story the readers pay attention to the episodes that turns the story upside-down (Larinde). From these moments they begin to criticize the town and its citizens and defend the main heroine, forgetting about the fact of the murder. The author managed to create a character, which arouse sympathy notwithstanding that she is a cruel murderer in reality. First of all the sympathy arises when readers understand all the horror of isolation she appeared in after the death of her father: “rhe day after [her father] death, all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. 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…. ” (p.52)
At the same time the story teaches us how to define and overcome the obstacles one can face in case if the understanding and sympathy provoke violence and suffering. The author suggests that we should try to overcome such obstacles by means of imagination. Many people would call it the lack of optimism in this story. It is clear that it was the town that made Emily so violent. And she tried to display resistance against violence.
The reader can trace multiple attempts of the town to interfere the life of Emily. The special interest to her life can be traced already at the very beginning of the story where the funeral of Emily is represented: “Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair” (p.432). We see that after the death of Homer Emily suffered a lot. He was the only person who made her life meaningful. Faulkner depicted this situation very skillfully, he emphasized that no one can accept pity, notwithstanding that it is a natural feeling and represents the struggle between humans and environment (Brooks 195).
By creating the character of Emily, a murderer who had her own reasons and feelings, Faulkner tried to emphasize that there was not definite line or border between good and bad, and every person as positive and negative features, the question is only in correlation between these items. Emily is very deep and interesting character. She is strong and independent and at the same time she has idealistic nature. By allusions and characterization the author depicted the New South and portrayed its wish to struggle for rights, and its independence. This was shown through the main character – Emily. A Rose for Emily is one of the stories, which are very interesting for analysis due to the hidden sense the author put into it.
1. Blythe, Hal. “Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily.'” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 191-193.
2. Brooks, Cleanth. “On ‘A Rose for Emily'”. Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 190-191.
3. Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 177-183.
4. Fetterley, Judith. “A Rose for ‘A Rose for Emily.'” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 193-196.
5. Larinde, Toyin. “Biography of William Faulkner.” The Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project at Starkville High School. 11 Feb. 2000 Zane
6. J. Peder. “William Faulkner’s literary legacy.” 21 Sept. 1997. The News & ObserverBrooks, Cleanth and Warren, Robert. Understanding Fiction. Appleton Inc.1959
7. O’Connor, William. History in ‘A ” Rose For Emily’. Charles Co., 1970