A Review Of William Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily"

1763 words - 8 pages

William Faulkner (1897-1962), who came from an old southern family, grew up in Oxford, has the incredible ability to show us the very depths of a human soul, psyche, thoughts which make up mankind. Every character seems to be a comment on some aspects of the society. (Clasius, 21) Most of the time he works on the themes of; human drama, the decay of the old South, racial prejudice by using some techniques like, "the distortion of time through the use of the inner monologue" (Clausius, 56). In his short story called A Rose for Emily, his style can be designated.William Faulkner in A Rose for Emily, tells a story of a woman who is violated by her father's strict mentality. Her story takes place throughout the Reconstruction Era from the late 1800's to the early 1900's in Jefferson, Mississippi. Emily was raised in the period before the Civil War. After being the only man in her life Emily's father dies and she finds it hard to let him go. Like her father Emily possesses a stubborn outlook towards life, and she refuses to change. While having this attitude about life Emily practically secludes herself from society for the remainder of her life.Setting is place and time, and often provides more than a mere background for the action of a story. Faulkner uses this device in his complex short story "A Rose for Emily" to give insight into the lonely world of Miss Emily Grierson. Faulkner portrays the townspeople and Emily in the southern town of Jefferson during the late 1800's to early 1900's. The town is more than just the setting in the story; it takes on its own characterization with Emily, the main character. The town of Jefferson is deeply involved in the life of Emily Grierson. They often watch, debate and gossip about her. They had their own idea of who she was and what they wanted her to be. Emily is portrayed as a woman who kept to herself throughout her whole life. In her younger years her father had driven all her suitors away.No man was good enough for Emily. Emily's solitude was especially evident after her father died and when her boyfriend Homer disappeared. Her hair had turned an "irony gray" (Faulkner, 439) after her father died. She had a black manservant, Tobe, who is a faithful servant, throughout her whole life that went to the market, cooked and gardened for her. During the end of her life the manservant's visits were the only way that the townspeople knew that she was still alive. After her father died Emily kept his body in her house. A few days after Emily's father's death a couple of ladies came to give their condolences. But Emily came to the door dressed in casual clothes and showed no signs of grief. (Faulkner, 338) The townspeople were about to resort to law enforcement when she finally broke down and told them that her father was dead. They thought Emily did this because they remembered how the father drove all the young men away. Now she was a figure that could be pitied by the town, alone and penniless.Eventually Emily meets Homer, a Yankee who came into town "to pave sidewalks" (Faulkner, 441) during the summer of Emily's father's death. They started seeing each other but Homer would rather hang out with the guys than hang out with Emily. He was not the marrying type. When Emily figured this out she bought some arsenic from a druggist. The townspeople thought she was going to use the arsenic to kill herself. However the next week they were sure homer and Emily would get married because Emily had been seen at the jeweler's ordering a man's toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B. on each piece. Two days later she was seen buying a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt. Homer was not seen for a week or so but he eventually came back into town and a neighbor saw the manservant let him in at the kitchen door. That was the last time anyone would ever seeHomer until forty years later. After Emily's death the townspeople broke down a door to a room in Emily's house and there lay Homer's skeleton in a double bed. In the room was the man's toilet set, a collar and a tie. Upon a chair were carefully folded suit and a pair of shoes and socks. Along side Homer's decayed body they found a pillow with an "indentation of ahead". (Faulkner, 444) On the pillow was a long strand of iron-gray hair. From this piece of evidence, it suggests that Emily poisoned Homer and slept next to him every night for forty years after his death.Emily was a headstrong woman that seemed fragile and weak, but was instead very strong. She had the whole town convinced that she could not hurt a fly, but instead she was capable of the worst of crimes, murder. " Faulkner's works convey a deep sense of oppression and withdrawal, yet they convey too the struggle with self and society. In the midst of defeat and despair a small center of resistance resides"(Backman, 186) Moreover, Minrose Gwin, author of The Feminine and Faulkner, states that several of Faulkner's female characters, including Emily Grierson, are "indeed active disruptive subjects in their narratives; theirs are voices which denounce and subvert male power"(Gwin, 8). They do what they do, such as killing Homer Barron in Emily's case.William Faulkner's theme of alienation comes up many times in his writings. In A Rose for Emily, Miss Emily Grierson is a woman who is alienated and lives in isolation from the people in her town. The theme of isolation is one of the main points in the story, since it is what drove her to her madness. Throughout most of this story Emily Grierson gives us the sense of strength. She seems to show strength even when the men are creeping around her house putting down lime to block out the smell. (Faulkner, 442) But this strength that she shows is merely a front. It is merely a cover to hide her inner insecurities, doubts about herself and her isolated world. What Emily Grierson shows on the outside is a front to protect her from the world. Her father's over-protection makes her more isolated from the real world for instance, "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, 441). Her father robs her from many of life's necessities. She misses out on having friends, being a normal "woman," and her ability to be happy. Emily is not able to live a normal life.Faulkner chooses to use third person narration in this short story for a couple of reasons. He tries to show Emily's world to us as seen through the eyes of a respectable resident, so we can understand the town life as if we lived there This way we were able to understand how the people of Jefferson thought of her. The language and dialogue that Faulkner uses for Miss Emily enables the readers to understand how she feels about the town. She is not very pleased with the changes that have occurred. For example, when the new Mayor tells her that she owes taxes in Jefferson, she just keeps on insisting that she does not owe any money. She also keeps repeating that if they had any to just ask Colonel Satoris about her taxes, while everyone knew good and well he had passed away. This in turn supports the theme of the story, because we see that Miss Emily does not like the idea of change at all.Furthermore, Faulkner uses many symbols throughout the story, one of them being the crayon portrait of Miss Emily's father. The picture symbolizes many things one of them being that it shows how she thinks of things in the distant past. Another symbol is the poison that she uses to kill Homer Barron. When the people in Jefferson found out that she had purchased the poison they surely all thought that she was going to kill herself. What she really used it for was never expected from quiet, old Miss Emily. This lead up to the climaxof the story. After Miss Emily died they had to go to remove her body. The unsuspecting thing that happened in her house was that she had been sleeping with Homer's old decayed body for many years.In conclusion, Emily's room above the stairs was a "sanctuary" for her. In that room, Emily shut out the world. In it the living Emily and her dead boyfriend remained together forever. Even death could not separate them. However, in the end death wins out. After her own death Emily's secret would be shattered. " Her rose colored world is invaded by the curious inhabitants of the real world." (Davis, 121) The "Rose" for Emily, Faulkner talks about in the title of this fictitious story could be found in "the tomb like bedroom" she created, which wasn't found till Emily's death. "Upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded light" (Davis, 125). These rose-colored items gave the room an artificial rose like color.Emily Grierson as an early Faulknerian portrait of a woman denied lives chances, a victim of the repression and destruction caused by the community. Her fight for survival and attempt to stop time distorts her. "A Rose for Emily" is a terrible tragedy of how the societal roles of women can lead them to do intolerable acts. The town of Jefferson causes Emily to do the things she does. In the end, they really got what they wanted.

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