Monday, February 27, 2012

Analizing "A Rose for Emily"

Sylvia Clemons
Dr. Phyllis Hunter's
Intro to Fiction
ASU, Jonesboro, AR.
Feb 15,2012

Analizing "A Rose for Emily"                                                                              
William Faulkner is an American novelist who won the Noble Prize for Literature in 1949 for his powerful and artistic novels.  Most of Faulkner’s stories were written about an imaginary town called Jefferson.  This town reflects the history of Oxford, Mississippi where he had lived since his childhood.  In 1959 during an interview he was asked where he got the idea for the short story “A Rose for Emily” and he stated, “It was a ghost story” (939).  The setting for this story is the 1900’s when modernism was overtaking traditional lifestyles and many changes were occurring that are symbolized throughout this story.  Faulkner views Mr. Grierson as the older traditional ways of the south of Emily when she was a young woman, “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground” (316). Through this passage the image of male dominance is introduced revealing Emily’s lost dreams of having her own family.  The theme of a lost world full of death and decay is illustrated through concrete imagery, place symbolism, and flashback technique.
Faulkner builds his theme using concrete imagery to evoke an emotional response towards Emily through movement, smell, and sight.  The use of movement shows how modernism changes the town surrounding the protagonist and her house in order to show abandonment.  For example, the second paragraph describes the house, “had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies” (314) on a select street.  The house is then seen as, “an eyesore among eyesores” (314) among cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps where other beautiful houses had once been.  The description of smell is used to emotionally connect the stench of death and decay between the house and Emily’s life, “will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad”.  It was the house which smelled not Emily.  Faulkner then uses visual images to similarly relate the house and Emily as being old, lonely, and an inherited obligation to the newer generation of town’s people, “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (314).

To give the house a deep ghostly quality Faulkner uses place symbolism to illustrate Emily’s own personal isolation, emptiness, and death.  The house is described as being away from the rest in town.  It relates to Emily who also isolates herself from the town for years at a time, “her front door remained closed, save during a period of six or seven years” (319).  She becomes trapped in the house as her father chases away suitors that attempt to call on her.  Three deaths are mentioned taking place inside the house, thus giving the house the eerie setting of a ghost story.  Homer’s lying in the bed decaying.  Faulkner states, “The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace” (320) illustrating Emily’s emptiness as well as being one of the deaths. This scene leaves the most eerie impression of all as it implies that the protagonist had lain with the body in an embrace even after she murdered him, “the second pillow was the indention of a head” (320) and the hair they found on it was the same color as Emily’s, “iron-gray” (320).
            Faulkner uses the flashback technique to reveal the motive, and to show key moments of Emily’s life through time and space.  The flashback technique allows Faulkner to present the ending first, “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral” (314).  Faulkner then proceeds backwards through time to explain the most important pieces of her life.  This technique makes it possible to create a space between two generations that allows the story continue to flow.  In the third paragraph the old mayor invented a story to keep her from having to pay taxes, “Miss Emily’s father had loaned money to the town” (314).  By using the flashback technique Faulkner is finally able to present parts of Emily’s life to explain the motive behind Homer’s murder.  Homer was a traveling construction foreman and was not looking to settle down, “that he was not a marrying man” (318).   He was about to leave town, “the streets had been finished some time since” (318).  Emily took control and went to visit the drug store to buy some poison.  The druggist questioned if it was for killing rats, but Emily never replied.  After she got home with the poison he had written on the box, “For rats” (318) suggesting the druggist was suspicious with her purchase.
 Finally, Faulkner’s use of concrete imagery, place symbolism, and flashback techniques work together to create this tragic story about a lost world of youthful hope, love, and family.  Emily’s life was filled with emptiness, death, and decay, “She died in one of the downstairs rooms” all alone in her own bed.  In the end after Emily was buried the mystery lurking throughout the whole story was revealed by the town’s representatives.  Everyone wanted to know what was in the room, “no one had seen in forty years” (320).  They violently opened up the house’s most hidden secret.  As Emily’s bridal chamber was opened, it was as though the house and Emily were finally released from their most treasured secret and the bondages that held them so closely together.