Emily Needs More Than a Rose William Faulkner could be considered one of the greatest American writers for Southern literature. He is an eccentric southern writer who is mostly known for writing short stories that include his eerie style and dark descriptions. William Faulkner is the son of Murray Cuthbert Falkner and Maud Butler. Faulkner was born in Mississippi where most of his short stories take place. Faulkner wanted to join the U. S Army during World War I, but was denied because of his height, he later enlisted in the British Royal Flying Corps (Fulton 26).
In 1919, Faulkner enrolled into the University of Mississippi where he wrote the student newspaper (Witkoski 1). After being published and selling 1,000 copies, Faulkner moved to New Orleans and then moved to Paris, where he wrote about the Luxembourg Garden (Funk&Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia 1). Sherwood Anderson, one of Faulkner’s friends, told him to write more about the places and things he knew more about such as Mississippi. After this, Faulkner’s work was soon known for his preserving of southern historical legacy. He would broadcast social issues that were not covered by mainstream media.
Faulkner gradually became more known for his open discussion on social situations such as rape, murder, and death Faulkner is most notably known for his work, some that include “As I Lay Dying”, “The Sound and the Furry” and “A Rose for Emily”. In 1949, Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in literature and won two Pulitzer Prizes for fiction. On July 6 Faulkner dies of a heart attack and is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford (Chronology of Faulkner 357). In his short stories, Faulkner’s family left a huge impression on him. He even wrote about his grandfather in some of his early works and used his family as a base for some of his characters.
Faulkner even uses himself as a base for a character in his short story “A Rose for Emily”. In the story, some of Emily’s characteristics comes from Faulkner himself. Emily is seen as an eccentric person in her county, as Faulkner is seen as one too. In William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily”, Faulkner creates a fictional character in Jefferson, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, who is the main focus of the town gossip and who symbolizes the superannuated south, Faulkner does this by the use of his explicit description, thorough character development, setting, and symbolism.
In developing each character, Faulkner includes the representation of two opposing views. “The first, represented by Homer Barron, the North, and the new generation, consists of living in a rootless present and denying the past. The second that of the old generation, consists of clinging to the past and resisting or even denying change. The story is thus a criticism of two opposing views of time, one corresponding to the South and the other to the North” (Vartany 189). A character in the story is Homer Barron, Emily’s ex-fiance, who symbolizes the New North.
Homer works with the new construction that is taking place on the town’s sidewalks. Homer soon becomes a topic for the town’s gossip because of his charming attitude and charismatic appearance. Homer represents the modernization of the town and how the north is influencing the south. The Board of Alderman also represent the modernization of the south, however, Homer becomes a friend of Emily, unlike the Alderman who create problems for Emily. The north tries to enforce their views onto the south, Emily, and the south refuses and leads into isolation.
In “A Rose for Emily”, Emily represents the old south. Despite modernization occurring all around her, she chose to stay traditional and remained the same. She is unwilling to modernize her house, which displays how stubborn Emily is as a person. Emily’s traditional ways are seen through her writing. In part I paragraph four, Emily’s writing style is described as “archaic… ” Emily’s distaste for modernization is further seen when she refuses to allow the county to attach a mail number to her house and her mailbox. Emily’s consistent refusal to modernize leads her into having limited relationships.
In the story, Emily’s relationships stretch to her servant, her ex-fiance, and her deceased father. Emily is essentially a hermit and as the story develops she becomes disconnected with society. Emily displays irrational characteristics, is slightly insular on certain topics, and is held as topic for the town gossip. Emily’s insularity makes her more stubborn. Emily’s refusal to pay taxes, and refusal to explain why she needs arsenic (Faulkner 4) shows just how isolated she makes herself and how she feels she does not need to follow the rules set by the town Aldermen.
Although Emily does not have many relationships she is the main focus of the town gossip. Emily is held as a respective figure in the town because she is seen as a monument in the town (Faulkner 1). The setting of the story also helps Faulkner portray the message of the story. Emily resentment to modernization and her clinging to conservative views makes her resort to isolation. This could be used to symbolize the events leading to the Civil War. The story’s setting takes place in Jefferson were soldier’s graves are placed.
The setting displays the antebellum period leading to the Civil War and the fall of the peace between the north and the south. The setting could also help symbolize the south during reconstruction era or the time after the civil war. The allegory and the theme show just how much William Faulkner was able to preserve southern legacy in a short story. The allegory in “A Rose for Emily” is a treatise on the opposing views of the north and the south. To help with the development of the allegory, Faulkner uses explicit description to help further convey his message.
Faulkner uses vivid description that portrays his gothic style of writing. Faulkner describes Ms. Grierson as having a skeleton like figure (Faulkner 1) and motionless (Faulkner 2). This description, although the reader is already aware of Emily’s death, foreshadows the death of Ms. Grierson and it also foreshadows Ms. Grierson’s dark secret. He also describes her as having “iron-grey hair”, which is an important part of finding out who Ms. Grierson really is. Throughout the story, the point of view is told through the eyes of the citizen.
This shows that the story and people telling the story really do not fully understand who Emily is. The narrator of the story is unknown. The narrator’s tone does not change throughout the story, but his views on Ms. Emily does. In certain parts of the story the narrator respects Emily but throughout the story his feelings towards Emily changes turning into resentment or disgust perhaps? Because the narrator of the story is unidentified the story could change depending on who is gossiping in the town. The point of view is important in the story because the people and reader do not know who Ms. Grierson is until her death and the opening of her house.
When the townspeople are allowed into the house they are able to find out what kind of a person Ms. Emily is. Because Emily is isolated and is only seen through the window of her house, the people do not know who she is behind closed doors. The window could be used to represent Emily’s separation from reality. Her excessive negligence to understand the rules of the society helped contribute to her increased amount of detachment from society.
Ms. Grierson is only seen through that window and also when she decides to come out into the public’s eyes. When reading the story the reader does not know who the narrator is, as mentioned earlier, but you are able to get a sense of how the narrator feels about Emily. The town’s gossip of Emily is quieted when they finally discover her secret. In the locked room in the house, a decaying body is found on the bed and next to it was iron-grey hair. Ms. Emily could now be considered as having necrophilia. Necrophilia is a person who has sexual intercourse with or attraction towards corpses.
This could be seen from the beginning of the story. Emily was not able to let go of her father after his death. This could be interpreted as her not being able to grasp the idea of her father’s death. Or it could show Emily’s desire for power and authority over her father who always had power and authority over her (Faulkner 3). Emily is not able to let go of Homer, her ex-fiance. Emily’s want for power and lack of interaction with the outside world has led her into having a lack of what is normal and causes her to exhibit behaviors that could be attributed to insanity.
In the Story “A Rose for Emily”, Emily portrays eccentric genteel characteristics throughout the story, in which William Faulkner is able to show the southern heritage and pride in the antebellum period or the reconstruction era. The story shows modernization against conservatism. Faulkner’s use of setting, symbolism, point of view, and characterization that helps “A Rose for Emily” to become more than just a short story but a historical piece that shows the fall of the Old South.