Mystery in William Faulkner's a Rose Thesis

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¶ … Mystery in William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"

William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily," captures our attention because it is a love story and a mystery at the same time. The love story is embedded in the dark mystery that surrounds Miss Emily, a mysterious old lady that grows increasingly eccentric with time. Faulkner paints an incredible picture by setting up the story and enticing the reader with the mystery that surrounds Miss Emily. That alone is enough to keep us reading. We want to know what it is about her that warrants a short story. We do not know until the last paragraphs of the story and Faulkner's ability to keep us reading until those last words demonstrates his skill as a writer. He utilizes several techniques to construct this mysterious love tale, including narration, imagery, and symbolism. Love is at the heart of this story but there is much more to it than that. Love also becomes the motivating factor for Emily's bizarre behavior. Love is indeed a mystery and nothing startles us like the macabre mystery of Miss Emily.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Thesis on Mystery in William Faulkner's a Rose for Assignment

Rose for Emily," is undoubtedly a love story. Michael Burdock takes it one step further and claims that the story is one of a "grotesque love" (Burdock). We can agree that is grotesque indeed. There are many aspects to this story that reveal the complexity of love and how it can shape an individual. They are gripping and they consume us. David Madden claims, "Miss Emily's story is certainly bizarre, suspenseful, and mysterious enough to engage the reader's attention fully" (Madden). We first see Emily's strange love displayed through her relationship with her father. Emily is dependent upon her father because of how he treats her when he is alive. He was protective of her and this contributed to her dependency on him. Emily's father loved her so much that no one goof enough for her. We read that he "had driven away" (Faulkner 455) any possible suitors for Emily possibly because they were not good enough. Love becomes even more significant to Emily because of her father's behavior. What she does not realize is that he has ruined any chances of her finding a good man while she is young. Her father oppresses her and becomes the predominant reason why she becomes a hermit after his death. While he thought he was doing well by shielding Emily from some of life's difficult experiences, he was doing more harm because she was not prepared to live an independent life without a man. Her love for her father was so powerful that she refused to believe that he was dead. The narrator of the story realizes that after her father's death, Emily "would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will" (455). This aspect of her life is significant when it comes to Homer and her feelings toward him.

Homer Barron was not a particularly lucky man. He appears at a time when Emily needs a man in her life and Emily is very accustomed to getting what she wants. Elizabeth Kurtz backs up this notion, adding, "Because of her father's intervention with previous suitors, Emily has passed the usual age for courting when Homer Barron arrives in town sometime after her father's burial. She must have known that at her age she would have limited opportunities to attract a beau" (Kurtz 40). There is more going on here, however, and Kurtz points it out. She claims, "Emily needs love so desperately that she is willing to bend and perhaps even flaunt tradition when she allows Homer Barron to court her" (40). Emily is willing but Homer is not and that is a problem Emily is not afraid to solve.

Homer is a significant character because he is an object of love and of mystery. From the first mention of him in the story, he is mysterious. We do not know what he means to Emily until the end of the story. It is important to note, however, that how she interacts with him can be an indicator of her true nature. The two figures are in contrast as Homer symbolizes modernity and change while Emily symbolizes stagnation and the old south. Strangely, Homer can also be seen as a beacon of hope for Emily. Emily seems to change after Homer appears and there is a hint of a possible romance. Rumors even fly about the two getting married. However, Homer is a modern man that only "liked men" (Faulkner 456). Truly, Homer is an innocent victim. He might have entertained Emily just to be nice. From the ending of the story, we know that Emily loved Homer. Kurtz notes:

If Homer had been the type to settle down, Miss Emily might have been capable of leaving the southern gentlewoman's traditions behind. The changes that must come when life is lived might have been possible, however, her eventual realization that Homer is 'not a marrying man' is the shock that destroys her fragile emotional equilibrium. (Kurtz 40)

Indeed, the truth was far too much for Emily to handle. We all know that love can drive people to do crazy things and Emily demonstrates this point clearly. Faulkner keeps the mystery alive until the last words of the story and then we are still in shock. Judith Fetterly notes, "The ending is shocking not only because of the suggestion of necrophilia but because the possible perpetrator is a murderer who is female; both details seem unnatural and hence grotesque" (Fetterly 34). Again, we must discuss the grotesque. Madden agrees that the love is grotesque, adding that Emily's relationships "may elicit many Freudian interpretations" (Madden). Jack Scherting maintains that Emily suffers from Oedipal complex, in that her "desires for her father were transferred, after his death, to a male surrogate, Homer Barron" (Scherting 399). This appears to be true as no other men come into Emily's life. She needs someone to love and Homer happens to appear when Emily is ready to love again.

Emily teaches us what we are capable of when we are in love and when we want love. Sometimes we want love so badly, we will tell not only ourselves anything to keep love alive but we will also believe anything to keep it alive. Burdock explores Faulkner's reason for Emily purchasing rat poison from the druggist. He surmises that one slang interpretation of the word rat "applies to a man who has cheated on his lover" (Burdock). If we consider this true, then we understand Emily's motivation for buying the poison, however irrational it may be. "In order to keep Homer by her side, Emily poisoned him" (Burdock). It is grotesque behavior and one that is not expected from a lover. However, a jilted lover could resort to these tactics in an instant. It is safe to assume that Emily was jilted. Instead of just letting Homer go, Emily decides to keep him by her side forever. Emily might have been crazy but she did have taste. She prepared a room for Homer like no other. The biggest mystery of all was the room upstairs was decorated as if for a "bridal" (Faulkner 458). In addition, we read that the "the man himself lay in bed" (459). To make things even more mysterious and grotesque is how we are told that the "body had apparently once lain I the attitude of an embrace" (459). Furthermore, what was left of him was "inextricable from the bed" (459). Adding to the grotesque nature of this strange love story is the strand of "iron-gray hair" that is found next to Homer's rotten corpse. Emily had Homer right were she wanted him - in her room, erased from public.

Love and denial hold hands in this tale. We cannot look at Emily without seeing a woman in love and a woman in denial. Her denial is present in almost every aspect of her life. It is clear that she is a woman out of time. She does believe that she owes taxes and cannot accept the fact that Colonel Sartoris is dead even though he has been dead for over a decade. Upon her father's death, Emily simply denied it. When she is approached, she answers the door "with no trace of grief on her face. She told them her father was not dead" (Faulkner 454). She keeps the dead corpse in her house for three days and someone else must physically remove it. Emily could not cope with change. Robert Warren says, is Faulkner is "aware of the romantic pull of the past, he is also aware of the submission to romance of the past is a form of death" (Warren 367). Nothing illustrates this more than Emily's attachment to the past and her inability to accept change. She kills herself before she is dead and gone but she is not aware that she has done so.

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