Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Rose For Emily


Society’s Rose

Reoccurring times in literature, authors use specific elements to develop a story and take it from a general level to one that is unique and profound. As the readers embark on such captivating journeys, they often encounter characters that are either generally accepted by their society or characters that are distant from their neighbors based on their beliefs and values. A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner is a short story that deals with the strenuous task of trying to feel accepted by a society that upholds different values than that of a particular individual. Miss Emily Grierson is endowed with this mission because many people “… believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were.” (Faulkner 28) With that imposing idea, the narrator depicts Miss Emily as an outcast and eventually as someone who is extremely isolated from the rest of her community. The narrator introduces his ideas with a first person plural narration that leads to the point of view of, stream of consciousness, which gives incite on an individual’s thought process. This element plays a major role in the course of the story because as the narrator occasionally includes himself in the Jefferson community, he gives his opinions on how a woman of such a high stature is shunned by her entire community, solely based on her unwillingness to assimilate to the newer ideas of the up and coming generation. Through Miss Emily’s isolation from society, Faulkner emphasizes the idea that the fear of being alone causes an individual to not only seek comfort in unlikely places, but also to lash out against the outward things that are causing her feelings of insecurity and loneness.

The story’s postmortem aspect prevails in the beginning of the story as the readers discover that Miss Emily is already dead, however, Miss Emily’s death is crucial because the readers immediately get a small glimpse at the type of relationship Miss Emily had with her neighbors. In the first two opening paragraphs, the narrator not only states “… our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house,…” (26) he concludes the paragraphs with a description of her house. The readers obtain an understanding that she was distant from the people of her community seeing as how her neighbors did not show up to her funeral to grieve, but they came to look around her house and to satisfy their curiosity. The neighbors feel as if they have good reason to be curious because Miss Emily lived a secretive life that embodied every idea of the past generations that resided in Jefferson. Dating back to 1894, Miss Emily was “…remitted of her taxes…” (26) by Colonel Sartoris, however, “… the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction.” (26) As the officials of the town go to great lengths to force Miss Emily to comply with the new rules, her unwillingness to adhere to the orders of the town, cause many to believe that her stubborn ways embody her ideas of superiority.

Miss Emily’s resistance to comply with the new rules of the town causes much dislike amongst her and the people of the town. People in the community appear to try and avoid her at all times, however, when an unbearable stench begins to come from her house, the townsmen are forced to intervene. The men’s apprehensiveness about visiting her house, and one the man saying, he would “… be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily…”(27) the readers begin to view Miss Emily as someone that is feared throughout the town. Faulkner makes a point of saying “…four men crossed Miss Emily’s lawn … they broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there…” (28) and after Miss Emily’s father dies, “… people were glad…” (28) and “… at last they can pity Miss Emily…” (28) In all of these instances, the narrator distances himself from the community and he begins to look upon the people of the town and view their actions towards Miss Emily from a different perspective. Stream of consciousness falls under the category of selective omniscience, and omniscience occurs from the author’s point of view and not the narrator’s. When the narrator is separated from society, he sees the ways in which the town treated her while she was alive; however, when the narrator includes himself in their society, he sympathizes with her more. Faulkner intentionally includes and then separates the narrator from the Jefferson society because the readers and the narrator have the opportunity to see how Miss Emily is truly affected by this isolation and it establishes a sense of suspense as the readers wonder if Miss Emily’s solitude will encourage her to succumb to the pressures of society or will she continue to resist the new rules. The story’s tone seems to change after Miss Emily’s father dies, and she denies the fact that her father is actually dead. The narrator then says, “we did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. 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 would.” (28) It appears that after the narrator separates himself from the community, he is able to better understand Miss Emily’s situation and he chooses to include her in the idea of “people”(28) rather than just the outcast, Miss Emily.

Although it may appear that the narrator has a better idea of Miss Emily’s past, she is still isolated from the rest of her society; however, she is able to find an unusual outlet that provides her with a little sanity. As new projects are underway in Jefferson, Homer Barron, a construction worker, comes into the town and brings more life to the people there. “Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the square, Homer Barron would be in the center of the group” and Miss Emily surprisingly was interested in him as well. As they began to spend more time together, the townspeople and Miss Emily found out that Homer, “…liked men... and… that he was not a marrying man…” (30) Despite this revelation, Homer and Miss Emily spent even more time together and as Miss Emily appeared to be happier, the other women of the town seemed to become jealous of Miss Emily, especially when “… they passed on Sunday afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth.” (30) The women began to despise and even interfere in Miss Emily’s relationship, but soon after the women called the minister to speak with them, “… we were sure that they were to be married.” (30) A few days later Homer entered Miss Emily’s house and that was the last time any of the people in the town saw him again. In fact, a long time passed before anyone saw Miss Emily again either, and as “… the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of the town…” Miss Emily seemed to revert back to her old ways of refusing to divert from her traditional ways. After generations passed she eventually fell ill and died in her house.

After the death of Miss Emily, the people of the town finally gained enough courage to enter a house full of dust and despair and pay their respects to her one last time. Although no one had seen the inside of the house “…in at least ten years,…”(26) none of the neighbors were prepared to see Homer Barron’s dead body lying on a bed in the attic and an indentation of a head with a long strand of iron-gray hair on the pillow next to his body. Although it was not directly stated in the story, the readers can conclude that Miss Emily killed Homer Barron with the rat poisoning she had bought earlier in the story. After Miss Emily met Homer, she appeared to enjoy life more, and to take small adventures with him that went beyond the walls of her house, however, as she began to enjoy more things, she began to feel the pressures of her society as they judged her relationship with Homer. Their interference forced her to think about marrying Homer and buying him things that she otherwise would not have done if her community had allowed her the freedom of engaging in this relationship without their input. Faulkner used stream of consciousness to express how easy it is to allow oneself to become a part of a society that judges someone without truly getting to know him first. The narrator of A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner, includes himself in the Jefferson community as they look upon Miss Emily and criticize her way of life because it is extremely different from the type of lifestyle the newer generation is trying to create. However, during the times when the narrator disconnects himself from the community, he realizes Miss Emily’s childhood and the pressure from her father was part of the reasons as to why she did not interact much with the men and women in her community. Faulkner’s emphasis on the idea that Miss Emily’s fear of being abandoned by Homer, the first person in a long time who cared about her would possibly leave her because he did not view her in an affectionate way, caused her to have the desire to kill him and to preserve his body in the attic. Just as a rose is sometimes pressed in a book, Miss Emily chose to leave Homer’s body in her attic, in order to preserve the memories, love, and friendship they once shared.

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