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Essay on A Rose for Emily

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What is atmosphere? It is the use of dust and moonlight, of curtains and trailing gowns. Atmosphere is the character that is not human, the description of place and feel, all the points of the tale that are not directly products of the people in the story or poem. In "A Rose for Emily'' by William Faulkner, atmosphere seems more potent than the hastily sketched characters in the story. This is also evident in the famous poems "She Walks in Beauty'' by Byron and "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer Day?'' by Shakespeare. Note that even the titles of these poems refer more to the surroundings of the love object in the title, rather than the object herself.
"A Rose for Emily' starts as a reminiscence and ends as a horror story. Even in the starting lines, atmosphere is strongly stressed...There is a quick reference to the town's people, and then Faulkner turns to the deceased Emily's house with a clearly relished description.
It was like a big, squares frame house that once had been White, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavy light some style of the seventies...an eyesore among eyesore’s [Cited in DiYanni, 2007, p. 79]. Immediately, the reader is more interest in seeing the house than marking the passing of its eccentric owner. Even the title of Shakespeare's "Shall I Compare Thee to a summer’s Day?'' seems to refer more to the day than the "Thee.'' He goes on to exclaim the delights the "darling buds of May and "nature's changing course untrimmed.' [Cited in DiYanni, 2007, p. 874]. His loves' immortality does not lie in her character, but in the fact that her beauty allies with the nature of the day. Similarly, Byron opens his famous love poem with the line "She Walks in Beauty like the Night / of ...


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...are Thee to a Summer Day'' is less atmospheric [a bit more sexually ambiguous- is he admiring a young girl or boy?], but is still clear in its desire to have that possesses the traits of a sunny summer day. Byron brings up the rear in these works in atmosphere; it is a short happy poem.
Still, he chains his love to the night and to mystery of the dark
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
These waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face; [Cited in DiYanni, 2007, p. 1111; 1112].
Note the nameless woman has black hair, a subtle reference to the atmosphere of the night.
What else do these works have in common beyond their skill as literature? They are about women, [with the slight doubt in Shakespeare's case]. They are an interesting window into the views of the female sex in particular times of history.



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