The Conflict between the Individual and the Society in A Rose for Emily
One of Faulkner’s most famous short story, A Rose for Emily is based on the theme of the stark conflict between the individual and the impersonal voice of the community. To emphasize this idea, the story is rendered through the collective point of view of the community that includes Miss Emily.
Not accidentally, the plot of the story is set in a small town, where the relationship between the individual and the society is a very tight one. Moreover, the narrator of the story locates himself or herself among the people in the town and even speaks in the first person plural, maintaining therefore a collective view of the events.
The heroine of the story appears therefore even more singular and isolated, when regarded through the inquisitive lens of the community. The complex relationship between the individual, Emily Grierson, and the society, is emphasized in several ways.
This conflict arises because Emily, an aristocratic woman of a high social standing, rejects all the social norms and conventions and enshrouds herself in her own fantasies and obsessions instead of actively participating in the social life.
The psychotic mind of the main character is therefore opposed to the gossiping community, which is limited to the role of a witness in this story. The reason for Emily’s power is precisely her madness which also gives her an absolute and lawless freedom of action.
What is striking is that Faulkner draws the portrait of a disturbed and obsessive individual, by setting it at a distance from the reader’s immediate perception.
If, in most of his novels, Faulkner employs multiple point of views and the technique of the streams of consciousness to narrate the events, in A Rose for Emily the protagonist is analyzed from the point of view of an entire community.
The perspective that the townspeople offer on Emily’s story is, however, equally unreliable. Miss Emily is described from the point of view of the community as a very haughty person, respected by everyone on account of her nobility but largely misunderstood.
The gossiping, ghostly voice of the town is left outside the premises of the house where the woman isolates herself. Her refusal to pay taxes as well as all her other whims and peculiarities are accepted by everyone without argument, merely because she is part of the upper, aristocratic social class.
When she dies however, the same community is shocked when they realize Miss Emily had entertained a perverse obsession during her secluded life, and had slept with the dead body of her former lover, whom she had poisoned herself.
Thus, the struggle between the woman’s desires and the opposing forces is now apparent: she stubbornly holds on to the memory of her father and to the body of her dead lover, unwilling to relinquish her feelings for them. Emily’s obsession first with her father’s corpse and with that of the lover is at the core of a morbid marriage fantasy that is the motif of the story.
Therefore, Emily violates all the basic principles of her community, beginning with the laws of social interraction–she isolates herself and rejects all human contact- and continuing with tax evasion and even with the concealment of the corpse of her lover, Homer Barron in her own room.
She is therefore a murderer or in any case an obsessive or mad individual who nevertheless manages to evade social punishment. Through her, Faulkner draws a vivid portrait of madness and the way in which an individual manages to literary live out the most psychotic fancies in the middle of a normal small-town community. By definition, madness is characterized as a serious deviation from the accepted human behavior.
Without being openly irrational or incontrollable, Emily Grierson has a definitely obsessive mind which leads her to react against the laws of society. Her purposeful self-incarceration in her own house and her obvious withdrawal from the normal life of the community points to the conflict between the individual and society.
Emily revolts against social norms and chooses to live in her morbid dream instead. She prepares for a ritualistic marriage that she feels she cannot fulfill otherwise than through death.
Her seclusion from society is also significant, as she withdraws in the safety of her own fantasy and rejects the assumption of a pre-established social role. The morbid gesture of violence that Emily performs is a poignant rejection of social conventions related to gender and marriage.
However, her rejection of social existence does not point merely to the ongoing tension between individuality and community: Faulkner represents here the gap between the individual consciousness and the collective voice.
Although the impersonal narrator would seem to forbid psychological inquiry in the story, the voice of the community itself creates psychological tension. Despite her willful isolation, Emily’s madness can therefore only be understood as a reaction to social constraint.
The author emphasizes the obsessions that consume Emily as part of her response to social pressure. While the woman lives her obsession is silence and solitude, the society watches all her movements keenly and with undiminished interest.
The most curious phenomenon in the text is actually her existence as an individual among the other ordinary people of the community, and the way in which she manages to evade the control of society over her own life.
The community described here by Faulkner has a gossipy and even haunting voice that hovers over the household where Emily lives in complete isolation.
As the story is told from the point of view of this inquisitive and restless community, the reader gets a glimpse of the way in which Emily Grierson moves quietly on, from one generation to another, closely watched by the members of her social environment.
What is curious is that, with all its regulating force, the community fails to control Emily and her madness: “Thus she passed from generation to generation–dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse” (Faulkner 1970, p. 179).
Faulkner emphasizes this fact by referring to Emily’s oddly strong and pervasive influence as a conquest of the social power.
In this story, the individual seems to triumph over society and madness triumphs over norm. Interestingly, the murder of the lover is in itself an anti-social act as well as a token of Emily’s obsessive nature. However, the fact that Emily manages to escape social control to a certain extent does not make her a free person.
Her marriage fantasy is the token that her behavior is determined, at least partially, by her response to social influence.
Analyze the A Rose For Emily Essay
Definitely, William Faulkner is one of the most controversial writers ever studied, a lot of his stories bring about the issues and questions, which has bothered humanity for a substantial period of time.
Faulkner is great at creating unusual settings for his stories, most of the personages he develops throughout the course of his stories are authentic and unique, and none of the other writers is able to reproduce the realistic appeal of the Faulkner’s characters.
A Rose for Emily is the perfect example of the writer’s style, most of the readers are somewhat shocked by the unusual issues the author elaborates upon in his famous story. I believe that one of the fundamental questions discussed within the course of the story is the psychological instability of Emily, Faulkner is creating the atmosphere which facilitates readers to find out for themselves what were the reasons of her psychological breakdown, and what consequences it triggered.
The main character is Emily Grierson, referred to as Miss Emily throughout the story. This story has many flashbacks and is told in five sections. The story starts with the death of Miss Emily and people going to her funeral. The narrator lets us know that the men where there out of respect and the women showed up to her house out of curiosity.
The house is described, as once being white and decorated, “ set on what had once been our most select street. ”(Faulkner, p.2) Knowing this we can assume that Emily’s origins are of upper-class status, which later leads to issues with her and her father.
The story obviously goes back and forth in time, telling the story of Emily’s life. The most significant part of her life is when her father dies. Emily’s father plays a large role in what type of person she becomes later in life. The fact that he felt “none of the men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such,”(Faulkner, p.25) foreshadows her actions later in the story. Critic Donald Akers hints, “ Emily’s repressive life contributes to her rather severe psychological abnormality: necrophilia.”(Akers, p.67).
Later we find that Emily is in great denial because she will not admit that her father is dead. It takes three days before she lets the townspeople take her father’s body away. That is rather strange, the townspeople do not understand why would Emily want to have a dead man’s body at her house, they believe that her psychological instability is in progress, however there is not much they can do about it.
Most probably, Emily was mentally ill due to the fact that her father never let her have a boyfriend. She shows the first signs of instability when her father dies and she does not let anyone take him away. The next sign of this problem of denying death is when the aldermen come to collect taxes. She insists they go talk to Colonel Sartoris, when at this time Colonel Sartoris has been dead for ten years. Emily could not stand the thought that Homer might leave her; and that is where Faulkner lets us assume that Emily has killed him.
Thus, Faulkner succeeded in creating the image of the psychologically instable woman, who was avoided by most of the townspeople and became the central part of the town’s gossips. Emily’s psychological problems appear to be the major topic of the story, the author does a great job in showing how her illness progresses and makes her do things, which a normal person would never even think about. Emily is neglecting her neighbors, she does not want to communicate with the townspeople and rarely leaves her house.
She does not want to accept the very concept of death, the death of her father and his disapproval of her having a boyfriend being the primary reasons for her madness. Faulkner has created a great and unique story about a psychologically instable person, although a lot of readers are shocked at various facts and conclusions he makes, the story is remembered for a long time after anyone reads it.
Faulkner William. Selected Works. New York: Random House Inc., 1980.
Mellard, James M. “Faulkner’s Miss Emily and Blake’s ‘Sick Rose’: ‘Invisible Worm,’ Nachtr?glichkeit, and Retrospective Gothic.” Faulkner Journal 2.1 (Fall 1986): pp. 37-45.
Akers, Donald. Overview of A Rose for Emily, for Short Stories for Students, Gale, 1999. Reproduced in Literature Resource Center.
Burduck, Michael L. Another View of Faulkner’s Narrator in `A Rose for Emily’, in The University of Mississippi Studies in English, Vol. VIII, 1990, pp. 209-211. Reproduced in Literature Resource Center.
Davis, William V., “Another Flower for Faulkner’s Bouquet: Theme and Structure in ‘ A Rose for Emily’, in Notes on Mississippi Writers, Vol. VII, No. 2, Fall, 1974, pp. 348 Reproduced in Literature Resource Center.
A Rose for Emily
A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner was created with authentic insights about a woman who can not accept change. Emily was a spinster who was seen as a lonely and impoverished woman who was so attached to the past.
It was a beautiful story of a woman that shuts herself off from the rest of the world simply because she cannot accept change. The story is about community versus isolation, unity versus exclusion, fate, death and love unheard. It was also a story of how a person’s life can impact and influence the community.
William Faulkner used descriptive imagery that will challenge the mind of a reader about the culture during that time. The story started with descriptive statements of Emily’s death and flashes back in time that examines the events of her life.
The description was so useful to analyze the effects of time and the nature of the past and the present. The narrator tries to deliver his message with the means of flashbacking. The story begins with Emily’s death at the age of 74 and flashes back to the near distant past of Emily’s life. She was a character who was so attached in the tradition of the past that she continually personifies until her death.
Faulkner used the pronoun ‘we’ which tells that the narrator is some of the townspeople sympathizing Emily. It is a well structured and detailed events of Emily’s life the will give a deeper understanding why there is pride and isolation in her character. Emily’s structured character brought her to an unlucky fate. The story tells how Emily copes and accepted the nature of time, change and chance.
Emily’s father who represents the ruling class of the South contributed most in the construction of her pride and arrogance. Emily was raised in an upper class home which made them prominent in the community. She perceived herself as rich and powerful which motivated her poise and bearing. Their position in the community had unconsciously taught her to hold herself high from the surrounding people even after her father’s death.
As time passes by, perspective about class and status change. Emily’s house described by the narrator stands for the decay of the society as the watch represents time. People accepted the changes of time and ideas. But Emily who was a complex and well developed character chose not to adapt. This made her a grotesque or unique personality in the setting that encouraged the townspeople to analyze her life. The Negro who was an obedient gardener and cook and who provides Emily’s basic and practical need is also symbolic in the story.
This man connects Emily outside her small world. But even his character isolates himself to the community because of fear. Fear of the unknown that he may disclose something about Emily that will disdain his loyalty. But the Negro man unconsciously killed her relationship with the world outside and supported Emily’s violence against herself.
The rose in the story represents affection. It is affection given by the narrator to Emily. Other people may perceive Emily’s pride and violence as something immoral, but the narrator’s point of view towards Emily is different. He clearly sympathize with Emily and understands the reason how Emily constructed such character. The narrator justified her through presenting series of events about her past. She was a victim of bitterness and complete attachment.
The community itself during her father’s time constructed her different reality that made her of what she became. I can also suggest that the rose in the story represents Emily’s love for Homer. It represents the soft side of Emily which the outside world can not see. She was perceived differently by the people as a scandalous and proud. But Emily like any other needs love and affection. Her love was violent and harsh though which represents the thorns of the rose.
The narrator gave detailed events of Emily’s history which suggests the gossip nature of the southern town where everyone knows everybody else. In the beginning of the story, the author emphasized those women in town had a different perspective in attending Emily’s funeral. Emily was respected by the men of the town but women were driven by curiosity.
This suggests the domestic nature of women that time that seems more concern to the detailed events of Emily’s life. Women wanted to appease their long curiosity. Most of the time ladies in town find Emily’s scandalous and unusual. They find Emily a threat to the community. She was a symbol of the past.
Other reader may perceive this horrifying when the people in town discovered the secret of Emily after her death. She has kept the body of her lover named Homer Baron locked in a separate bedroom after she killed him years before.
But the body was not alone. The Northern man had been locked with an embrace since behind the indented pillow was a strand of iron-gray hair of Emily. The dead man had not died without love and attention. It was a horrifying in a way that Homer’s death was not given a social justice. But it was sad for Emily who wanted to give love and be loved but the circumstances and public opinion will no permit her so. The morality of Miss Emily Grierson was not justified in the end of the story.
The consequences of her isolation and pride made the townspeople pity her all the more. However, her solitude made her missed significant chances of her happiness. Though destiny and fate is a choice but we must reconsider the factors that influenced Emily’s choices. The narrator was so clever on how he presented Emily not as an antagonist but a woman that has to be sympathized which made me see her as a victim.
The story suggests how modernization and change can affect people. Not all people can enjoy change especially when these people enjoy the comfort of who they are in the past. Like Emily who can not accept change because she was afraid she may not get the same respect that she received before. But as a consequence, she was decline by the people around her. Her pride and arrogance unconsciously affected her choices that define her fate and destiny.
Chronology in ‘A Rose for Emily’
William Faulkner takes into account the ever-complicated concept of time in “A Rose for Emily”. It is a manifestation his contemplation on the nature of time. It lacks a standard chronology. Faulkner ensnare almost three quarters of century in a few page story. He does it superbly by avoiding a proper chronological order.
Faulkner skillfully put the story up to demonstrate the indefinable and intangible character of time. He constructs it in such a subtle manner that it is hard to detect any chronological order of the plot. Time does not flow in a linear direction but take a circular direction with the progress of story.
Fault consciously or unconsciously does not concern himself with specific dates. A handful of explicit dates are cited in the story. But these indications reveal as plenty of information about the linear chronology of the vents. For example, it is quite clear that remittance of Emily’s taxes by Colonel Sartoris takes place in 1894.
It is further provided that he is dead for the last ten years and this the time Emily meets the new aldermen. Story further discloses that Emily died at 74. This hint capacitates us to construct a linear chronology of the events.
The linear sequence of events in Emily’s life is as follow; Section 4 illustrates her birth during civil war. Section 2 describes a joint ride with her father in an old wagon.
Her father dies. Homer Barron appears on the scene and an amorous affairs starts with Emily in section 3. She purchases male lavatory set and outfits for him in section 4. We are again forced to revert back to section 3 when town people degrade him and reverted back and summon her cousin. Section 4 is marked with the arrival of cousins and departure of Homer from the town.
He returns back after the exit of her cousins. We again slip back to section 3 where Emily purchase poison from a local vendor and Homer disappears in the next section. Section 2 illustrate stink from her house indicating his death and four aldermen are shown sprinkling water on her grave. Faulkner has used a novel narrative technique as story starts with Emily’s funeral (the end) and concludes with the finding of Homer’s rotten dead body.
Faulkner’s concept of time and its effective utilization does not weaken the story but it is the most obvious strength of its plot, construction and thematic expressions. Although presentation of time in this manner is mostly related is subject to philosophical orientation of the author but it had deep impact on the plot.
He merges past into present and present into past and this feature of the story captivates the reader. “Faulkner gives the story a chronology, but as with so many of his stories, we have to sort it out” (McGlynn 461); Furthermore, it hinders the formulation of reader’s judgment about Emily till the end.
The effects of this non-linear chronology on the story are beautifully summed up by McGlynn (1969). He says that “A chronology of ‘A Rose for Emily’ is useful for at least two reasons: it makes the plot more easily comprehensible, and it helps clarify the function of time in the story” (461).
By evading a clear and linear chronological order of events, Faulkner attempts to provide his reader a riddle comprised of various bits. However, he provides clues to facilitate this puzzle-solving. The motive behind this exercise seems to involve his reader more deeply in the story.
Faulkner, William. A rose for Emily. Columbus; Merrill. 1970.
McGlynn, Paul D. William Faulkner: An Interpretation; “The Chronology of ‘A Rose for Emily,”‘ Studies in Short Fiction. 6. 1969.
Literature Analysis of A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner
In “A Rose for Emily,” the structure of the story is one that typically does not appear in many stories. It starts off with the ending which eventually leads to what really happened to Miss Emily. This story Is surrounded around the Ideas and visions of someone that lives in the town. It lets us know of what the people In the town thought of Miss Emily, and the things she was going through. The structure also does not follow a chronological order which plays out Like that of a detective story. Also the story has different sections that don’t go detail to detail It skips some detailed parts of the story that keeps us guessing.
This story Is not a traditional because It does not start off with a beginning to ending type of structure. Usually stories start off with a beginning and goes In an order that we understand since all of the details are put Into perspective and order. We see that In the beginning MISS Emily passes away and are left with the ideas of what might have happened since we do not know anything about the story. Later, we find out about Miss Emily, and the troubles she went throughout her time to the point where she died, and Homer was found dead in her bed. Throughout the story the narrator seems as though he is someone that is art of the town.
He tells us of what is going on in the town through Miss Emails life. The narrator has obviously been following Miss Emily, and her many struggles, loves, and to the point where she no longer alive. In the beginning of the story everyone in the town get’s together to see what is in Email’s house because they are curious to find out what really has been going on in the house. In the town that Emily lives in the townspeople think she is crazy. They only complain and talk about how her house smells, and that it is extremely dirty. Since the Judge will not do anything they take eaters into their own hands.
The townspeople discover that Emily buys poison, and think it is for her but they think that it is better if she is dead anyways. That is not the case though Emily uses the poison for something else. The townspeople seem as though they are an audience to Miss Emily show. The story is also not in a particular chronological order. It Jumps from section to section which skips certain details, but it still portrays what is going on in the story. It goes from Colonel Astoria showing up at her house to claim the taxes to them vanishing. So we really don’t know what happened.
Faulkner structures the story like that of a detective story to keep us guessing when he goes from section to section. Moreover, “A Rose for Emily’, has many structures that make the story unique and Interesting because It Is not Like many other stories. We see the point of view of the townspeople as though they are always up to date with Employs life. The story has a unique beginning because It starts off like the ending and ends with an ending. Also the chronological order jumps from section through section, which Is not In order that still keeps the reader Interested because It Is Like that of a detective novel.
A rose for Emily By monomaniac really happened to Miss Emily. This story is surrounded around the ideas and visions of someone that lives in the town. It lets us know of what the people in the town not follow a chronological order which plays out like that of a detective story. Also the story has different sections that don’t go detail to detail it skips some detailed parts This story is not a traditional because it does a beginning and goes in an order that we understand since all of the details are put into perspective and order. We see that in the beginning Miss Emily passes away and part of the town.
He tells us of what is going on in the town through Miss Emily life. Showing up at her house to claim the taxes to them vanishing. So we really don’t Emily’, has many structures that make the story unique and interesting because it is not like many other stories. We see the point of view of the townspeople as though they are always up to date with Emily life. The story has a unique beginning because it starts off like the ending and ends with an ending. Also the chronological order Jumps from section through section, which is not in order that still keeps the reader interested because it is like that of a detective novel.
A Rose for Emily Summary
Faulkner beautifully illustrates the morbid parallelism between Emily’s father and the house that imprisoned her. Both were controlled and manipulated by the very being that would eventually destroy them. Faulkner strategically places the home of the Grierson’s, on what was once consider a prestigious street in the crumbling, overcrowded town of Jefferson. Here, both monuments of the past are forced to maintain a dignified facade of sanity among an ever-changing society. There are two interpretations to be made in understanding the motive and meaning behind Emily murdering Homer Barron, in “A Rose for Emily”.
The first motive deals with the personal revenge Emily seeks towards her father, the second being towards the town of Jefferson who scrutinized her and critically analyzed everything she did. The death of Emily’s father set in motion a diabolically evil scheme to seek the ultimate revenge on the patriarchal society of Jefferson, which controlled and ultimately claimed her sanity. Her revenge began with her father whom she hated for denying her the privilege of having a normal and successful woman’s life.
Emily’s hatred began to fester within the depths of her soul as a young child, dominated by a father who concluded that no male figure was good enough to inherit the status of courting or marrying a Grierson. Emily became emotionally tormented by the very thought of being a spinster and having no other male figure to love, besides her controlling father. The growing resentment continued as she became older and perspective suitor’s appeared at the front door, ultimately to be chased away with a horsewhip. Although the violence is apparently outward-the upraised horsewhip against the would be suitor- the real object of it is the woman-daughter, forced into the background and dominated by the phallic figure of the spraddled father whose back is turned on her and who prevents her from getting out at the same time that he prevents them, suitors, from getting in. ” (560). Emily was a caged animal, imprisoned by her controlling father, in a circus whose master manipulates all of the animals’ movements, emotions, and physical appearance by a carefully illustrated system of rewards and punishments.
Emily’s’ rewards, according to her father, was that she be portrayed to the towns people as “a slender figure in white” too pure for the stains of any human being to corrupt what he, the father, masterfully created. Emily’s punishment was that she would eventually be revered as an untouchable figure who’s every action or movement would be analyzed by the town of Jefferson. It wasn’t until that fateful day, the death of her father, when Emily was finally able to outwardly express her revenge upon the very first male who suppressed her emotionally and physically, by not giving him the proper burial a Grierson deserved.
Instead, she was able to experience, first hand, the feeling of triumph over watching her so-called beloved father rot before her very eyes, the sweet revenge of a twisted character. Emily cleverly denied to the town’s people that her father died in order to secretly express her future intention of revenge towards the town of Jefferson by not letting them, the residents, immediately dispose of his decrypted and decaying body. “She told them that her father was not dead.
She did that for three days, with the minister calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly. ”(27). “Because she is Miss Emily Grierson, the town invests her with that communal significance which makes her the object of their obsession and subject of their incessant scrutiny… the town is able to impose a particular code of behavior and to see her in failure to live up to that code an excuse for interfering in her life. (560). The result of the towns interfering adds fuel to her fire to seek the revenge for interfering in her life and being so critical of every movement that she makes. The most significant diabolically evil plan Emily sought was the revenge on the patriarchy society of Jefferson, which no one would be able to comprehend the magnitude of the murder of Homer Barron. After the death of her father, the townsmen felt pity for her and claimed that leaving her the decrypted; decaying housing structure was a way of knocking her off the pedestal and becoming more humanized.
The patriarchal society outwardly expressed their need to watch over and care for the lonely spinster who they concluded incapable of providing for her financially. Colonel Satoris, the eldest patriarch of Jefferson, fabricated a story to justify why the town remitted her taxes, claiming that it was from a financial loan her father provided for the town many years ago. The motive for the murder of Homer Barron was for Emily, on her deathbed, to gain the last laugh at a town that scrutinized and critiqued her yet never came to understand why she acted and lived as she did.
Another motive for the murder of Homer Barron was to prove to the patriarchal society of Jefferson that even though she, Emily, could not “persuade him to marry her” (535). Due to his perversions, she may still succeed in controlling Homer if her were dead. No one would be able to take that secret love she had for Homer away even though he would never reciprocate it the same way because of his alternative lifestyle. Homo Homer was an embarrassment to Emily, because for the first time ever she was free love someone, and he turned out to love young men more than women.
This humanizes Emily even more and in turn it helps explode the decades of manipulation and control she receives at the hands of her father. She had a perfect plan; no one in the town of Jefferson would ever believe that Emily, being a real lady “to forget noblesse oblige—without calling it noblesse oblige” (535). “Emily is exempted from general indictment because she is a real lady-that is, eccentric, slightly crazy, obsolete, a “stubborn and coquettish decay”, absurd but indulged; “dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse”; indeed, anything and everything but human. (561). Who would believe she would have murdered someone in order to have their love. “A Rose for Emily” is taken from a morbidly crepitated point of view where an author obviously is hiding many deep dark secrets within his past without bluntly coming out and exposing it to the rest of society. Faulkner disguises his own tragedies from his past through the story to give himself a sense of personal release from his own personal bondage. “A Rose for Emily” is utilized as a clever way for William Faulkner to disguise his own slide from sanity.