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A Rose for Emily The Faulkner's short story Rose for Emily rightfully belongs among other classical works of American literature of the beginning of twentieth century. This is largely due to the fact that author was able to introduce the readers to the original spirit of decaying South, while creating an emotional controversy, which makes his story so memorable. It is undoubtedly a love story, which comes to an unexpected conclusion, because of abnormal social circumstances, to which the main character was being subjected, throughout her life. Emily Grierson was a daughter of Colonel Sartoris, a hero of Civil War, who tried to impose his vision of honour and tradition upon everybody, including his own daughter. This was the reason why many young men, who tried to court Emily, while Colonel was alive, were chased away by him, because he thought that they were not good enough for Emily. This, undoubtedly had left a deep psychological wound on Emily, because she tried to live up to society's expectations, yet being unable to do it, without getting married.
Colonel Sartoris taught her that the main virtue of womanhood is to be married and have children, while he prevented her from finding a husband: None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau; Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a straddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized" (Faulkner). After her father's death, Miss Emily seemed to have finally found a man. His name was Homer Barron, a northerner who came down South in search of easy riches. Him and Miss Emily were seeing together by the town folk and everybody assumed that the couple was probably going to get married, although it would seem rather odd, as Emily and Homer did not have nothing in common, at all.
He was a brutal character, who liked to spend a lot of time in bar, drinking himself to oblivion, while Emily was a shy and quite woman, with the blood of Southern aristocracy in her veins. But it is an old Southern tradition, not to get involved in somebody's else business. That is why, after Homer had disappeared, everybody just assumed that he probably had left, even though that they saw Emily buying wedding accessories and arsenic poison, prior to Homer's disappearance. Because of subconscious fear and respect of Emily's diseased father, nobody ever checked up on her, as the years passed, she became a sort of local landmark, associated more with the vanning spirit of the South then with herself: Only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores (Faulkner). But it wasn't up until Miss Emily died, that the people realized the utter horror of her life. It appeared that she had poisoned Homer and slept with his corpse on the bed, ever since his disappearance: What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust (Faulkner).
Only then it dawned on everybody that Miss Emily was mentally sick, throughout the most of her life, without people noticing it. In a way, we can say that Faulkner applies the idea of social abnormality, which he clearly associates with the South. It is only an abnormal society that would not recognise the abnormality of one of its members. It is being noticed that the morality, based on the Christianity, has the biggest potential of violent outbreaks, among the people who practice it. The well known fact is the most gruesome crime occur in the societies, which repress human natural drives. The so called Bible belt is strongly associated with people's overly exaggerated politeness, as well, as with the monogamy, incest and other abnormalities.
Let us analyze what other critics had to say about Faulkner's Rose for Emily. (1) The first critical essay that we will refer to is An Analysis of Rose for Emily by Paul Plagiarist, which can be found at web In it, author comes up with the idea that Emily's crime came as the result of metaphysical incompatibility between the past and the present: Faulkner contrasted the past with the present era. The past was represented in Emily herself, in Colonel Sartoris, in the old Negro servant, and in the Board of Alderman who accepted the Colonel's attitude toward Emily and rescinded her taxes (Plagiarist). Author suggests that Barron's death symbolizes the conquest of the present by past, because, in his view, Emily is nothing but the embodiment of dust and decay. This is exactly the reason why Faulkner never gets tired of emphasising the Emily's frail physical appearance. The past, which we can also relate to death, does not want to let go.
It wants to be part of the present. But the only way it can be done is when death adopts active forms, which can coexist with life. Plagiarist views the image of decaying corpse on Emily's bed in terms of time being reversed in the opposite direction. This is why the ending of the story is so shockingly horrible. It is not the death itself that causes repulsion in normal people, but only when death adopts some unnatural qualities, like the ability affect alive people to the point when they become the agents of death themselves. It might be repulsive to observe a dead bodies, after car accident, for example.
But it is not scary. Scary is when dead body begins to talk, when chairs walk, when dead tree's branch blossoms. That is to say, scary is the synonym of unnatural: In a sense, Emily conquered time, but only briefly and by retreating into her "rose-tinted" world of the past. This was a world in which death was denied at the same time that it was shown to have existed (Plagiarist). Author is well aware that some of his ideas will not be welcomed in contemporary society, which practices political correctness. This is because the Emily's sickness can be seen as the ultimate result of undead social tendencies being allowed to pursue its course.
It does not take a genius to realise that every social, religious or political movement that denies life, as the expression of people's natural instincts, is actually acting as the agent of death. If we take one step further, it will appear that Christianity is such agent, as well as Gay and Feminist movements. Therefore, Plagiarist tries to avoid sharp corners, by saying that it is only Faulkner himself who could " ve left no doubt what were the original ideas that inspired him to write Rose for Emily. In the simplest sense, the story says that death conquers all says Plagiarist, but he points out again and again that the understanding of Faulkner's story, on the individual level, is greatly affected by the type of world view, which every particular person holds. (2) The second review to be analyzed here is Eric Knickerbocker's William Faulkner: The Faded Rose of Emily, which can be found at web He uses rather descriptive approach, while accessing Faulkner's story from the literary prospective. There is no deep philosophical conclusions to be found author simply describes Faulkner's artistic methods: Faulkner has carefully crafted a multi-layered masterpiece, and he uses language, characterization, and chronology to move it along, a sober commentary flowing beneath on the nature of time, change, and changes well as a psychological narrative on the static nature of memory (Knickerbocker). Basically, author simply retells the original story, while pointing out at specific episodes, which in his understanding, are the keys that allow us the full prospective of Faulkner's worldview.
For example, Knickerbocker attaches a great importance to the fact that Faulkner uses flashbacks. According to him, this is not just being done to enhance the artistic properties of the story, but also to emphasize that the past for Emily is much more real than the present. But this is about it. Knickerbocker simply states his opinion and does not bother to come up with any additional explanations.
His critical review certainly lacks the depth of Plagiator's approach. In the way, his review sounds like a work of a student, although it needs to be said that he did a great work, formulating his thesises. But their simplicity, as whole, reduces the value of author's conclusions. Nevertheless, we can't deny that Knickerbocker had spent a great amount of time researching the Rose for Emily. His attitude is the attitude of a person who watches movie for no other reason than trying to find a minor inconsistencies, for the purpose of exposing them to prove his own sophistication. Although, he does not do it directly.
For example, he explains the disappearance of old Negro servant, at the end of the story, by Faulkner's intention to add intrigue to the story: The manservant not a particularly important character though without him the plot would have lacked an added layer of richness has finally outlived his usefulness and Faulkner handily shuffles him off the story board, adding one last element of mystery to the tale in the process: Why did the Negro disappear? . Here Knickerbocker outwits himself, as it is clear, from the context, that...
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