Essay, Research Paper: William Faulkner

Literature: William Faulkner

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William Faulkner was a writer in the early to mid 1900’s. Faulkner was born
into a life of a well-known family and a somewhat rich family. Faulkner also has
a very unique style and this paper will show his unique style in the story “A
Rose for Emily.” William Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897 in New
Albany, Mississippi. Faulkner was born into a pretty famous household. His
great-grandfather, Senior John Sactoris was part of Mississippi’s history. His
great-granddaddy was an author of several books, a lawyer, soldier, railroad
builder, and poet. He was twice acquitted of murder charges. ` “Faulkner grew
up around traditional lore-family and regional stories, rural folk wisdom and
humor, heroic and tragic accounts of the Civil War, and tales of the hunting
code and the southern gentlemen’s ideas of conduct (Collier’s, 1)” He also
grew up in conditions of poverty. As a child Faulkner grew up in his hometown,
Oxford, Mississippi. He went through all of grammar school and only a few years
of high school and college classes. As a young adult Faulkner knew he wanted to
be a writer. As a teenager Faulkner wrote and illustrated homemade books. After
attending a few college classes Faulkner entered the Royal Canadian Air Force
during World War I. When the war came to an end Faulkner went back to his
hometown of Oxford. To keep himself from becoming poor Faulkner performed many
odd jobs, some of which included a journeyman, carpenter, house painter,
fireman, night watchman, and a postman. During that time Faulkner started
writing his first book, The Marble Fawn. The Marble Fawn, written in 1924, was a
collection of largely intellectual and derivative verse. After publishing his
first novel Faulkner started moving around to such areas as the Bohemian Quarter
of New Orleans, New York, and all over Europe. He moved around until he met
Sherwood Anderson, and was advised to write pieces of fiction. Sometime later
Faulkner published his second novel, Mosquitoes, which was about his life in
Bohemian Quarters of New Orleans. Two years later in 1929 Faulkner published
Sarlons. This was Faulkner’s first book to include his made up country found
in many of his stories, which was know as Yoknapatawpa County. Faulkner died on
July 6, 1962. His writing career lasted for three long decades and every single
one of his novels from his first to his last have all been popular and won
acclaim from many people. Faulkner himself has a very unique style, “he is
credited with having the imagination to see, before other serious writers saw,
the tremendous potential for dramas, pathos, and sophisticated humor in the
history and people of the south (Short Story Writers, 293).” Faulkner has been
called by many the Literary Carpenter. By using this material and showing others
how to use this style Faulkner is credited with sparking the Southern
Renaissance. By writing about the South’s history, Faulkner changed the
American view on the people in the south. “In undercutting the false
idealizations, Faulkner often distorted the stereotypes and rendered them
somewhat grotesque in the interest of bringing them to three-dimensional life;
and he attempted to show through social and political presumptions of the South
the portent of it’s inevitable destruction- first through war then through an
insidious new social order based on commercial pragmatism and shortsighted lust
for progress (Short Story Writers, 293).” In this sense the new south was
shown as mainstream America. Faulkner writes in a way that makes it harder for
the reader to understand. He uses long sentences that challenge the reader to
make out the speaker, the time, and even the subject of the narrative. Faulkner
uses stream of consciousness interior monologues, and frequently combines time
to stress his belief that the past and present are linked together in the human
psyche. The story “A Rose for Emily” exemplifies these points very well.
“A Rose for Emily” is one of Faulkner’s most critiqued stories and it is
also one of his best stories as well. It is a popular book for its elements of
mystery, suspense, and the macabre. In the story Emily Grierson murders her
husband because he cheated on her and then she sleeps with his dead rotting
carcass. The main point of the story is not her killing, but of her relationship
to the two generations of people in her town, the first generation is known as
the old guard and the second one is known as the new generation with “modern
ideas.” In the beginning of the story the reader is informed that Emily is
dead and the whole town goes to her funeral. Most of the people at the funeral
were part of that young generation, and they could never really accept Emily
into their generation. To them she was the classic idea of an old fashioned
southern woman. In the story the old generation fathers relieve Miss Emily from
taxes and they send their children to take part in her china painting classes.
On the other hand, the new generation fathers do not think it is fair that she
is exempted from taxes and make her pay, they do not allow their children to
attend Miss Emily’s china painting classes. Because Miss Emily tells the town
she will not pay the taxes and tells them to take it up with a man who has been
dead for ten years she is labeled insane by that generation. After that she
becomes somewhat of a recluse and lives in her home with her black servant. Miss
Emily then becomes a symbol of the old generation’s values and the sins of the
old fathers. Many readers see Emily as just a symbol of the past, but to a point
that is not correct. As the story goes on the reader finds out that she is not
really part of the old generation either. She, in fact, is part of the post war
generation, which was a defeated group that yearned for their Old World that
they once had. The reader also finds out that the new generation is nothing but
a bunch of posers, because of the way they adapted their life to fit the
American way. As the reader can see the two generations are complicit in
ignoring the real Emily and creating and maintaining the myth of Emily as a
exemplum of southern womanhood from a lost age. As the story progresses there
are two men who buy limestone and sprinkle it around Emily’s house to get rid
of the smell of the rotting carcass, and once the smell went away the town
dropped the issue. The story now goes to the characterization of the slave era,
the new south learns to forget the past by forgetting that Miss Emily the
recluse and murderess, and by valorizing the romantic tableau. The new
generation sees the Greirsons as a high and mighty power; they also inherited a
land sullied with cotton gins and garbage that commemorate the old south’s
defeat. In the end the narrator, a townsperson himself, reveals Miss Emily’s
real purpose. She was a reminder that both generations were guilty of the same
misplaced value. Not only did they let Miss Emily, the murderess, come into
being, but also that they covered up her crime and enshrined her in a tableau
into which they can inset themselves. There is an interbreeding of ideas between
the two groups that allow them to have such bad ideas in maintaining the ideas
of what they would like to be. Miss Emily is a fallen monument not only to her
family but also to the ends of the two generations. The monument is topped with
death and not by the ethical evolution of the town. The narrator realizes it was
the town’s fault for Miss Emily’s actions, because they drove her into
isolation madness by treating her bad.

Blother, Joseph. Faulkner: A biography. Second Volume. (1972; repr.1991).
Brooks, Cleanth. The Yaknapatawpha Country and William Faulkner: Toward
Yonapatawpha and Beyond. (1978). Collier’s Encyclopedias Online. 1997
Compton’s Encyclopedia Online. The Learning Company Inc. 1997. Greenburg,
Martin H. and Charles G. Waugh, Eds. Great Short Stories of the 20th Century.
New York: Avenel Books, 1987. Hoffman, J. Frederick. William Faulkner. New York:
Twayne Publishers Inc. 1966. Karl, Frederick. William Faulkner: An American
Writer. (1989; repr. 1990). Lee, A.R. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha
Fiction. (1986). Meriwether, James B. Studies in the Sound and the Fury. (1985).
Skaggs, Calvin. Ed. The American Short Story “Volume 2.” New York: Dell
Publishing Co., 1980.
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