Essay: Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily

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[. . .] It is not only the body that is decomposing, but the world as people like Emily knew it to be.

Emily herself becomes symbolic of the old south and the decimation of the old, wealthy families as they had no choice but to give up their large plantations and recreate themselves in a world without a free labor source. Those who are not of the elite find themselves "not pleased exactly, but vindicated" by the fact that Emily is floundering (Faulkner 2011,-page 438). When Emily's father dies, he leaves her nothing partly because he has nothing left to give her. He had kept up a presentation of having wealth and power which were no longer his. After his death, Emily still had power, but she was no longer the mythological giant of a prewar southern aristocrat. "Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized" (Faulkner 2011,-page 438). When the new South took over and the powerful families of the Old became impoverished and destitute, many of the old guard, particularly the elderly would not give up their situation. In this pathetic endeavor to hold onto the past, these members of the Old South became beings to be mocked and pitied rather than feared.

Emily's death begins the story and then her deeds are all told in flashback. From the outset she is dead, just as the south in which she grew up in is also dead. Her final moments have ended and the only thing that's left is her house and the memories of her former life. The story of "A Rose for Emily" is about a woman who dies and the community who remembers her. In that act of remembrance they discover that this woman was actually capable of very grisly actions. Emily's murder of her suitor Homer shocks the community because it seems so against what they knew of her. However, if one looks closely at Emily's symbolism then her actions make perfect sense. Emily's true goal in life was to try to keep alive the archaic and dying image of the antebellum south. When she is duped by Homer, she is proven to be fallible. Ray West (1999) writes:

The view of Emily as a monument would have been destroyed. Emily might have become susceptible to the town's pity -- therefore, human. Emily's world, however, continues to be the Past (in its extreme form it is death), and when she is threatened with desertion and disgrace, she not only takes refuge in that world, but she also takes Homer with her, in the only manner possible (page 46).

If word got out about how he was able to abuse her, then it would diminish the perception of the community. Just as they were somewhat shocked when Emily allowed herself to die, so too they would have lost all respect for her in life if she had been betrayed by a northerner and a poor one at that (Volpe 2004,-page 103). Her actions then only makes sense in the context of Emily's place in the history of the American south and in trying to keep onto a time period; something that no single person can ever be capable of.

In understanding William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the reader really has to evaluate the main character not a singular human being but as a symbol of a long ago era. Her actions, as they are revealed, are at first deemed to be awesome and amazing. When she is understood in terms of her place in the American south, her actions become more comprehendible. She shies away from the world once she realizes that the world in which she was born no longer exists. Rather than trying to adapt to a changing psychology, she locks herself away, literally with the corpses of the past.

Works Cited

Faulkner, W. (2011). A Rose for Emily. In Acosta, D.L.P. a. A. Literature: A World of Writing

Stories, Poems, Plays, and Essays [VitalSource digital version](pp. 534-543). Boston,

MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.

Volpe, E. (2004). A Reader's Guide to William Faulkner: the Short Stories. Syracuse UP:

Syracuse, NY.

West, R. (1999). Atmosphere and theme in Faulkner's 'A Rose… [END OF PREVIEW]

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