Essay, Research Paper: Rose For Emily By Faulkner

Literature: William Faulkner

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In the story, “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, Miss Emily
Grierson’s struggle with her family, her town, and herself makes her do things
that are out of the ”norm.” Her struggle makes her act inhuman and deranged.
Emily is a living a very sheltered life. Miss Emily struggles, in this story,
with herself and the society around her. Emily Grierson became very heartless in
the eyes of the reader and even a little demented all because of her sheltered
lifestyle, closed environment and, conflict with the townspeople. She knew that
the people of her town were talking about her. However, she ultimately let their
gossip influence her life. Some think that Emily’s actions were based on the
townspeople’s attitudes toward her. Others may say that her father shaped her
actions. However, Emily’s father, the townspeople, and even Emily herself
shaped her motives. They were the driving forces behind Emily’s action. This
struggle between "an individual and the society that attempts to restrict
her" (Brooks & Warren 158) would be unbearable for Miss Emily. This is
what ultimately leads to her downfall. Through imagery and conflict, the reader
can witness how all of this is true. As Faulkner begins this story, the reader
quickly learns that this piece is going to be about death and dying. Not so much
as physical death, although physical death is also apparent, but spiritual,
mental, and social decay. The physical death is opened to the reader in the
first line of this short story. The storyteller informs the reader by saying,
“when Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to the funeral…” Just
by this line the reader wonders if the town was sad to see Miss Emily past away,
or were they glad. Later in the story, the reader finds out that the townspeople
were glad. However, not for the reason that one might imply. Because the first
line of the book deals with death and dying, does it make “A Rose for Emily”
a story of horror? Brooke and Warren writes, “we have a decaying mansion in
which the protagonist, shut out from the world, grows into something monstrous,
and becomes as divorced from the human as some fungus growing in the dark on a
damp wall.” (Brooks & Warren 158) This is what makes this piece a horror
story. Webster New World says that horror means, “the strong feeling caused by
something frightful or shocking.” At the end of “A Rose for Emily,” the
reader finds out that Miss Emily is performing a very deviant action. The reader
and the townspeople are very much shocked by this act. This piece is truly “a
story of horror.” (Brook & Warren 158). What made Emily killed Homer? To
answer this, the reader must first expose Emily’s character to view. Emily’s
grew up around her father. Her life was hard. Emily’s father was a very strict
man. If compared to today’s strict father, he would be the type of father that
would show off his gun collection to a guy before taking his daughter out.
However, in the case of Miss Emily’s father, he did not let anyone see her.
The narrator in the story says Emily’s father ”ran off all the men that came
for Emily.” The reader sees how Emily’s father is detrimental to Miss
Emily’s well being. Because her father blocked her from the outside world,
Emily became dependent. Emily became addicted to her father. If her father told
her to jump, Emily probably would respond by saying how high. Emily’s father
was like a depressant drug. This drug made Emily feel safe at all times. The
reader also witnesses Emily’s father characteristics in a work of art. The
portrait hung “by the back-flung front door.” The narrator of the story
describes Miss Emily in the picture as “a slender figure in white in the
background.” It continues to say her father was “a spraddle silhouette in
the foreground.” The reader can see how Faulkner uses the portrait to
symbolize how Emily’s father shielded her. The narrator goes on to say that,
“ [her father’s] back to her and clutching a horse whip.” The picture
depicts how Emily’s father is in command. It shows how he ruled her. Her
father was the dictator in their relationship. Emily’s white garment
represents how pure and innocent she was. Emily was like a child that is in the
first stages on its life. The reader can not help but wonder what happened to
Emily’s mother. Faulkner does not answer this question. Something must have
happen to her while Emily was still young. Something had to happen to make
Emily’s father act the way he did toward Emily. The absence of her mother
affected her slightly. The reader can only speculate exactly how much it
affected her. However, the reader could clearly see that Emily’s father made
her live sheltered and away from everyone. Emily never had a worry. She grew up
thinking that in her older years there would always be someone there to make
sure she had the necessities of life. Miss Emily knew that without her father
she was nothing. Because of this, losing him never crossed her mind. In
actually, when Emily’s father pasted, Emily lost her best friend, her mother,
her brother, and her father. This is what Emily's father represented to her.
Emily had nothing else to live for. When her father died, it was no wonder why
Miss Emily was confused. However, surprisingly, Emily did not deal with her
father’s death like most people. She took it hard, but it left a different
kind of impression of her. Her grief was not like a normal person’s grief.
Nevertheless, she still grieved. When the storyteller describes Miss Emily,
‘…with no trace of grief on her face,” and when she tells the townspeople
that “her father [is] not dead,’ the reader knows that Emily is having a
serious problem dealing with her father’s pasting. This also makes the reader
wonder if Emily is crazy or if she is just taking the lost of her father in a
much different way. The townspeople thought that Emily was crazy. For three day,
Miss Emily denied to the town that her father was not dead. The storyteller
says, “Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and
they buried her father quickly,” After this, the townspeople begin to wonder
if Emily was playing with a full deck. “The narrator indicates plainly enough
that people felt that she was crazy.” (Brooks & Warren 158) The reader
finds out that Miss Emily has become the type of person where “realty and
illusion has blurred out.” (Brooks & Warren 158) This is apparent to the
reader during the tax situation with the new Board of Aldermen. Miss Emily
refuses to pay taxes to the town. The mayor of the town begins to protest about
her refusal to pay the city. However, Miss Emily does not even identify him as
the mayor of the town. A committee from the town comes over to Miss Emily’s
home. She tells the committee to talk with Colonel Sartoris. The reader finds
out that he had been died for ten years. However to her, he was still alive.
Faulkner used this comparison between illusion and reality to show how Miss
Emily was impacted by her closed and sheltered life. (Brooks & Warren 158)
Emily began to live like a commoner. During this era, status was a very
important thing. The name of Grierson was very noted in the community. For many
generations, the Grierson Family lived solely off their name. “ A principal
contrast [in this story] is between past times and present times: the past as
represented by Emily herself, in Colonel Sartoris, in the old Negro
servant…the present is depicted through the unnamed narrator and is
represented in the new Board of Aldermen, in Homer Barron…” (West 148). This
means that Faulkner used Emily (and the Grierson name for that matter) to
represent how things used to be. Although the Griersons lived off their name,
the townspeople knew that they did not really have as much money as everyone
thought. This is revealed to the reader when the storyteller says, “…the
Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were.” (O'Conner
152) Because of Emily’s shelter life, she was unable to cope with big events
that came her way. Emily was dealing with so many things. She did not know how
to handle herself in these unfamiliar situations. However, something happen to
Miss Emily that would change her life, Mr. Homer Barron. Homer was “day
labor." This was different for Miss Emily and the townspeople, because Miss
Emily was a Grierson and she was not supposed to ignore noblesse oblige. Miss
Emily disregarded it anyway. The reader notices that Miss Emily is proud of
Homer. “[Brooks and Warren] indicate that her pride is connected with her
contempt for public opinion. This comes to the fore, of course, when she rides
around about town with the foreman whom everyone believes is beneath her."
(Brooks & Warren 158). The townspeople were happy for Miss Emily. Homer was
like the rest of them, a commoner. They felt that he brought Miss Emily down to
their level. The reader could see that Homer made Miss Emily happy. This was
also apparent to the townspeople. They could see that Emily loved Homer. She
wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. She was determined not to lose
Homer the way she lost her father. “She is obviously a women of tremendous
firmness of will” (Brooks & Warren 158). Miss Emily was going to get it no
matter what it took to do it. The reader can see how firm she is when she goes
to purchase the poison to kill Homer. “She completely overawes the clerk”
(Brooks & Warren 158). She does not even give off any clues to what use she
will have for the poison. When she kills Homer, Miss Emily feel that this is the
only way to keep him forever. To Miss Emily, poisoning Homer was her way of
preserving. (Fielder 142). Miss Emily was a confused woman. She did not
understand what she was doing was not the way to preserve love. The reader could
see that she had never experienced love like the love her and Homer Barron had.
She liked that feeling and did not want it to end. She knew that if the
townspeople found out he were dead, not only would she suffer serious
consequences, but also they would take Homer’s body away leaving her with
nothing. Faulkner says, “I feel sorry for Emily’s tragedy; her tragedy was,
she was the only child, an only daughter. At the time when she could have found
a husband, could have had a life of her own, there was probably someone, her
father, who said, ‘No, you must stay here and take care of me’” (Jellife
152). Like Faulkner himself, the reader feels sympathetic toward Emily at the
end. Miss Emily could have had a great life if she had only had better values
instilled in her. If her father let her roam free, if the townspeople saw it
form Miss Emily’s perspective, and if Miss Emily herself would have tried
harder to make a difference in her own life Homer and her could have gotten
married and live happily ever after.
Brooks, Cleanth. & Warrren, Robert Penn. (1959). Short Story Criticism.
(Vol. 1). Detroit: Gale Research Company. (pp. 158-159). Faulkner, William. “A
Rose for Emily.” Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience. 7th ed.
Eds. Richard Abacarian, Marvin Klotz, and Peter Richardson. New York: St.
Martin’s, 1998. (pp. 667-674) Fiedler, Leslie A. (1950). Short Story
Criticism. (Vol. 1). Detroit: Gale Research Company. (pp. 142) Jellife, Robert
A. (1955). "Interviews with Faulkner." Short Story Criticism. (Vol.
1). Detroit: Gale Research Company. (pp. 152). Van O'Conner, William (1970).
"History in 'A Rose for Emily.'" Short Story Criticism. (Vol. 1).
Detroit: Gale Research Company. (pp. 152) West, Ray B. (1949). Short Story
Criticism. (Vol. 1). Detroit: Gale Research Company. (pp. 148-151).
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