Essay, Research Paper: Rose For Emily

Literature: William Faulkner

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The use of conflict, foreshadowing, and flashbacks throughout the story form the
plot along with its characters. The plot's stages can be traced throughout the
story. The start and end of the exposition, climax, and resolution can be
identified. There is also a protagonist and a few antagonists in this story. The
story is based on the life of a southern woman and the outcome of probably her
one and only relationship with a man. I will in the following paragraphs
illustrate the use of the previously mentioned tools in the story. The story
opens with the death of Miss Emily Grierson, the subject of the story. The fact
that the story begins in medias res or in the midst of the story is an example
of manipulation of the chronological order of the story (Kirszner and Mandell
65). This tool used by authors enhances the way a story is told. Another form of
manipulating the order of when events are exposed is through the use of
flashbacks. Faulkner relies on this to describe the events leading up to Emily's
death. Throughout the story the narrator goes back to different events to
introduce characters such as her father, her Negro servant, Homer Barron, and
the Board of Aldermen. An example of this would be when the narrator states,
"We did not even know she was sick; we had long since given up on getting
any information from the Negro." (86) Within these flashbacks, the author
inserts examples of foreshadowing. When an author uses foreshadowing they are
trying to give the reader an insight to the events about to unfold later on in
the story (68). Palomo 2 One example of this would be when the aldermen go to
visit Emily to serve her with a notice of the taxes she owes. The author writes,
"So she vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their
fathers thirty years before about the smell." ( 82) This statement was an
example of foreshadowing in that it evoked the reader to ask him/herself
"what smell?". The smell would be the rotting corpse of her dead lover
Homer Barron, which was revealed at the end of the story. The cause of his death
was also foreshadowed in the text. Emily had gone to the drugstore and asked for
arsenic. When the druggist informed her that by law he was obligated to ask her
the purpose for the arsenic, she looked at him "eye to eye, until he looked
away and got the arsenic and wrapped it up." (84) The use of flash backs
and foreshadowing by the author help him establish the storyline and introduce
the conflicts that the protagonist must face. The conflicts that Emily had with
some of the characters and herself shaped her in the eyes of the reader. Emily
was a woman that had been raised around the time of the Civil War in a prominent
family. This fact kept her from having a normal life. Her father never felt any
man was worthy of courting her. After he died, she searched for that happiness
she felt she deserved, but always maintained the noblesse oblige whenever in
public. The denial she exhibited at her father's passing was the same denial she
felt when she realized that Homer could one day leave her, too. The culmination
of her father's death and no big inheritance made her feel as if though her life
was spinning out of control. She could not bear the thought of being without
Homer and alone with nothing. This is why she killed him and still slept by him
all those years. His death created a conflict with her moral character, which is
why she became a recluse. Palomo 3 Aside from this struggle, Emily had now also
become an old lady surrounded by a new generation of towns people and leaders.
She had become kind of a burden to the town because of Colonel Sartoris' promise
to void her from paying taxes. The text alludes to this when it states,
"When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and
alderman, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction." (81) The
new generation saw Emily as a reminder of the older ways of life in that town.
All the conflicts that Miss Emily Grierson faced were what established her
character in the story. Emily is seen as the protagonist of the story. She is
the one that battles with her father's ruling hand and his death, her own
conscience about killing Homer, and the town's people constant scrutiny. All
these forces are some the story's antagonists. They are the opposing forces that
Emily must deal with before her death. Examining the role that her father played
in her life, no statement in the story leaves a stronger impression than the one
at the bottom of page 82. The narrator says, "None of the young men were
quite good enough for Miss Emily...a slender figure in white in the background,
her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and
clutching a horse whip..." (82). The death of her father and the meager
inheritance left her feeling helpless; without guidance or protection. This lead
to the interest in Homer Barron. She needed him to be her security. In which
case, she kept him there forever. The fact that she committed a crime like this
must have thrown her conscience into a maelstrom of guilt, yet it also brought a
perverse security from the outside world. A world that she locked out of, up to
the time of her death. I believe that it was this same world that made her feel
this insecurity and vulnerability. The author clarifies this point, "Thus
she passed from generation to generation-dear, Palomo 4 inescapable, impervious,
tranquil, and perverse."(86) The view of this society made her feel she
could not show any weakness, when she had little or no strength left. She did
the only thing that would keep her from the same fate as her great aunt old lady
Wyatt, she cut the connection. The end result was the increased scrutiny and
curiosity of the town's people. With all these antagonistic forces at hand, Miss
Emily Grierson handled this as long as she could in true nature of her proud
upbringing. The plot of all stories has stages that it goes through in order to
get its point across. These are the exposition, climax, and resolution. The
exposition starts from the beginning of the story. It introduces all the players
in the story, the conflicts, and the events that lead up to the climax. I
believe that the exposition ended and the climax began at the point of the story
when they are all gathered at her house for her funeral. The climax peaked at
the point when they forced their way into the room that no one had seen in
decades. The discovery of Emily's lover on the bed "now in the long sleep
that out lasts love" was the point that the resolution had begun to become
evident. (87) The arsenic, her reluctant nature of letting anyone see that part
of the house, and the secrecy all were tied together at this point. Here the
reader reached an understanding of what the author was trying to tell them,
which is the definition of the resolution. These stages are essential to the
success of a good story. The elements of a plot all work in synchronicity with
one another. They all added there own flavor to the story. One can add a little
more of one or two of these aspects of the plot to get a different affect. All
in all, the story combined the right amount of these tools to attain not only a
well written story but one that clearly states what the author is trying to
Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell. A Rose for Emily. Fort Worth.
Harcourt, 1997.
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