A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner


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In A Rose for Emily Faulkner explores the argument that the advantages gained by the aristocratic classes can sometimes act as an entrapment of social constraints.

Faulkner uses the narrator in the story, as a catalyst for characterisation as the narrator is a member of the story but is unnamed and internally focalised although he/she is also omniscient so focalisation does not change during the story. Faulkner shows that the narrator is in the story itself by writing "we did not say she is crazy then" implying he/she himself or herself were concerned, this makes the narrator an "intradiegetic narrator" . The story is also not chronological which allows Faulkner give an analeptic account of Emily's life after beginning the story, which it turn allows him to begin with a puissant first paragraph consisting of one sentence in which the main character dies. The story has been described as a tragedy, even a tragic love story, ending with the Gothic horror of the discovery in the "tomb" and the "long strand of iron-grey hair" hinting at necrophilia. Many believe there are other meanings to the story, for example, some see it as an allegory of the relations between North and South America and the decline of the aristocratic South, which Faulkner often wrote about. Faulkner's own parents came from wealthy families reduced to paucity through the atrocities of the Civil War. The town in which the story is set "Jefferson" creates a fictional realm within which Faulkner could recreate the ideas from the Civil war. Faulkner has often been described as a "regional novelist" . This is shown in A Rose for Emily as Emily murders a "Yankee" from the North.

Faulkner uses the modern short story form and A Rose for Emily can be put into the category of an "epiphanic" short story as described by Thomas M.Leitch . This is because the story comes to a "climatic revelation" without having a specific plot line with "purposive agents." Faulkner also writes close to the form of the short story as you can definitely read it in one sitting and he concentrates on a brief time span. This allows him to provide us with a deeper look at Emily and the society that surrounded her in a microcosm of what Faulkner witnessed happening to many Southern aristocrats. We know Emily is an aristocrat because of her behaviour towards the issue of tax, as she believes she is above paying because she is a "Grierson.

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" The fact that she has a coloured servant also makes her stand out as upper class.

Faulkner uses the temporary ellipsis to create anxiety for the closure of the story. Faulkner also used the short story form to originate chapters in his novels, which were also based in this fictional realm he had created. In this setting his writing becomes almost "faction" like as it reflects the history of America. A Rose for Emily has also been described as Gothic but unlike other Gothic writers in the first half of the twentieth century Faulkner replenished "the Gothic genre in its preoccupation with the doomed land-owning dynasties of the American south" . Faulkner also "opened a new vein of popular Gothic romance" shown in A Rose for Emily by Emily killing her lover.

Faulkner uses language to characterise Emily as an establishment; for example he describes her as a "fallen monument." He does the same thing with her surroundings. Her house is so isolated in style from the rest of the houses reflecting her yearning to stay in the past. The imagery and symbolism is particularly strong, as the story is brief you get an abundance in a short space of time. Faulkner uses this to emphasise the importance of the imagery. For example, Emily's gold watch, "they could hear the invisible gold watch ticking at the end of the gold chain." This is a powerful image of the rest of society observing time that seems "invisible" to Emily it shows she is ignoring the passing of time by concealing it from herself. This foreshadows the revelation at the end of the story that she really was locking time away in the "tomb" she had kept hidden for all those years. The images of decay are also stressed throughout the story to foreshadow the ending, for example "his voice had grown harsh and rusty", these images reach their summit with the unearthing of the corpse. Another interesting Gothic image is the fact that they put "lime" around the house to stop the smell, which unbeknown to them is a rotting corpse, lime was used in graves before bodies were buried so Faulkner again is anticipating the finale.

Faulkner's meanings are also popular as he plays on an awful act to entice readers. He also touches on Freud's theory that repression, especially if it is sexual in nature, will often result in psychological abnormality This is shown through Emily as she is repressed by her father as he won't allow her to marry anyone, then Homer denies her sexually. She acts abnormally towards her father when she won't let them take away his body and then kills Homer so that he can't abandon her. Another motive for her killing Homer is that Faulkner wanted to highlight the importance of social constraints and Emily felt she had to kill Homer rather than face the public shame of him denying her because "he liked men." This therefore shows the ultimate lengths the aristocracies were pushed to to "save face." The language that Emily uses in her dialogue also shows the power that her social status gave her for when she goes to the pharmacy and asks for "Arsenic" she interrupts the druggist every time he speaks. This power comes at a price because even though they thought she was going to kill herself all they said was "it would be the best thing" and she is only "humanised" when she becomes a "pauper" and even then they only "pity Miss Emily."

Faulkner achieves a short story, which keeps to the basic traditions by concentrating on a short span of time and a single main event. He also manipulates the structure in order to create a story with a Gothic/tragic element and psychoanalysis of the main character and the effects of isolation on aristocrats using subtle complexities. This story has been "read variously as a Gothic horror tale, a study in abnormal psychology, an allegory of the relations between North and South, a mediation of the nature of time, and a tragedy with Emily as a sort of tragic heroine" .



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