“A Rose for Emily” is a short story written by William Faulkner which revolves around the occurrences in the life of Emily Grierson and how her social circumstances and the way in which she was brought up impact her emotions and the way in which she loved people. Faulkner explains the impact of isolation on the life of Emily and how it affects her attitude towards life and love. The life of Emily Grierson circles around two important men that she loves which include her father and Homer Barron. The theme of love is important in the story and it is displayed by the affection that she shows towards these two men. In “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner has portrayed the fact that the way in which an individual loves and expresses her love is dependent upon the way that he has been socially trained and brought up.
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Emily Grierson was raised by her father as her mother had passed away. He isolated her from the society and the people of their town. He brought her up in his own way. He was a proud man who believed that he was superior to all the men in the town and did not interact and socialize much with them. He instilled these qualities of arrogance and proudness in his daughter as well. Such was his thought of superiority that he turned down all the proposals that came for Emily. This is explained by Faulkner when he writes, “People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such.” This environment in which Emily was brought up affected her emotions and the way in which she expressed her emotions of love. She was proud and lived her life as per her own rules. When the city authorities came to her house, “She did not ask them to sit. She just stood in the door and listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling halt.” These lines indicate her pride and how she did not even consider it important to even ask authoritative figures visiting her house to even sit. Furthermore, this is also seen when she tells the city authorities that she does not have any taxes to be paid in the town and also she does not recognize the sheriff and consider him to be an authority. She says, “I received a, yes,” Miss Emily said. “Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff. . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson.” This quality of considering herself to be superior above the other figures in the town was given to her by her father and she did consider the people of the town to be of importance in front of her.
Emily was greatly attached to her father and his loss shattered her. She deeply loved him but her detachment from the society and her limited social environment prevented her from expressing her love for her father in a proper way. When the people from the town came to share her grief following her father death, “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.” She did not allow the burial of her father and it was through forceful means that she finally gave in and allowed for his burial after three days. She wanted to be with her father and it was difficult for her to accept the fact that the person that she loved was no more with her. Emily did love her father but she was unaware of social norms and the ways in which she was supposed to communicate her love. Every individual wishes to keep their loved one safe and wants to be with the person that they love. It is through the experiences in the life of a person that he learns when it is truly the time to let go of your loved one. Emily loved but she lacked these qualities of showing her love and it was because of this that she could not understand the fact that her father was dead and she had to let go of him.
Like every other person, Emily was in need of love and affection. She fell in love with Homer Barron who was a part of the construction team from North that was visiting her town. She started spending time with him and she did not care about the talks that went behind her back in town. This act was a display of her love. They came in the notice of the people in the town which is understood when Faulkner writes, “Presently we began to see him and Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons driving in the yellow-wheeled buggy and the matched team of bays from the livery stable.” Despite of the arrogance and pride that Emily had been brought up with, her desire for love made her fall for a common man. The females in the town expressed their thoughts on Emily new love by saying, “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.” This explains the fact that Emily loneliness and desire for being with someone made her fall in love with a man who was not considered to be her match. During the time when her father was alive, Emily was not seen with any men and he would not have allowed his daughter to be with a common man as he had already turned down so may proposals for his daughter. Furthermore, her father had always tried to maintain his dignity in the town and Emily would not have imagined being seen around with a common man in the town during the time that he was alive. It is just her desire to be loved which drives her to go against the qualities instilled in her by her father and she goes around with Homer Barron openly in the town.
Emily started liking Homer Barron and she did not want to be separated from him. The narrator does not provide very intricate and detailed accounts of Emily love but her acts and behavior make the reader understand that she loved him and poisoned him to prevent him from being separated from her. It can even be seen that Emily loved Barron more than she loved her father. This is understood when the narrator says, “After her father’s death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all. A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man–a young man then–going in and out with a market basket.” Every individual wishes to be with his loved one and the loss of a loved one puts a person in grief. Emily had already gone through the grief of losing her father. She did not want to suffer from the same pain again. Also, she did not know how to cope and face the loss of the person that she loved. It was her love which drove her to the level that she even chose to poison Homer Barron as he had probably decided on deserting her. This decision of Barron can be understood from the character of Barron that is portrayed by Faulkner when he writes,”….. 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.” These lines clearly depict the fact that Barron was not a person who was willing to get married.
Homer Barron had probably decided on leaving Emily and the fear of losing her loved one again made Emily take the step of poisoning Barron with arsenic. She not only killed him but she also kept his body in her house for years with none of the people knowing about it. Even his presence was of importance to her. An individual is possessive about the person that he loves and Emily displayed her possessiveness by keeping his corpse with her for years. She kept his body besides her on her bed and the way in which it was placed is known when the narrator says, “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.” Emily poisoned Barron and secured his body right beside her by preserving it. She did not leave the house and stayed with the body in the house for years. This clarifies the fact that her way of loving was different from other people.
‘A Rose for Emily’ provides a hidden picture of love. It has been labeled by many as a love story where Emily displays her love for Barron by saving his dead body for years. Her act of staying with the body and cutting all communication with the outside world is labeled as an act of loyalty towards the person that she loved dearly (Priddy and Bloom 90). Critics claim the fact that the way Emily loved and led her life was owing to the way she had been brought up by her father. “We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door.” These lines from the story present the image to portray the relationship and the impact of Emily father on her life. Her life had been guarded by him and she had developed emotions as per the way that he had taught her. Emily was further deteriorated by the way she was treated by the society following his death and critics claim that the story presents a picture of the difficulties that women had to face in the South owing to “class structure” as well as “sexual repression.” (Werlock 567)
Love is an important theme in the short story, “A Rose for Emily.” Love is when a person is strongly attached to someone and wants to be with them. It is a powerful emotion and the loss of a loved one is very painful. Faulkner has explained the fact that even people who are arrogant and strong fall in love but their expressiveness of emotions his different from others. Isolation and a secluded upbringing greatly affected Emily. Her display of love and emotions is very different from how it should have been. Her father was very dear to her and she loved him but he turned down all the proposals that came for her. It is because of this that she was left totally alone after his death. Her inability to display her love properly is understood when she does not allow for her father burial. Homer Barron was another significant figure and she loved him even more than her father. Her love drives her to poison Barron and keep his body with her when he decides on deserting her. Emily Grierson suffers not owing to her own faults but because of the way that her father brought her up. She is unable to display her passion and love for the people that she cared for.
1. Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily.Web. 8 April 2013. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/wf_rose.html
2. Priddy, Anna, and Harold Bloom. Bloom’s How to Write About William Faulkner. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2010. Print.
3. Werlock, Abby H. P. The Facts on File Companion to the American Short Story. New York: Facts on File, 2000. Print. Chacko PAGE\* MERGEFORMAT 1