Monday, May 30, 2011

A Rose for Emily

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William Faulkner(187-16) was born in Mississippi, near Oxford, were his family moved when he was five. His great-grandfather had been somewhat of a local legend after becoming a colonel in the Civil War. His heritage is a great influence in his literary works.

William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” shows Fualkner’s concern for the destruction of the South, as represented within the destruction of the whole town, including Ms. Emily. Ms. Emily had been “a tradition, a duty, and a care,” when she was alive. From the beginning of the story the reader finds out she has just died and she is a “fallen monument.” A person to be revered. As the plot develops thru the narrator, whom many consider to be the town, we learn that Ms. Emily had not been allowed to have any male friends because her father was over protective of his daughter. When is young she is thin and wearing virginal white, while standing behind her father’s menacing presence. After her father dies she denies he is dead and refuses to turn over the body for three days. Afterwards, she begins dating a Yankee, Homer Barron, and the town can feel sorry for her. She can not date a Yankee she is of Southern heritage. Homer disappears and the town feels as if Emily will remain single until she dies. She dies and the town discovers Homer Barron in the upstairs bedroom. He had be dead for over forty years. Beside his body a long strand of iron gray hair is found. Ms. Emily had kept her love after all.

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Faulkner uses images of realism, the gothic and reflection to convey his story thru the narrator. “She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that palid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough...” (170) LaDonna said this was extreme realism but Dr. White said it went beyond that almost to the grotesque.

Ms. Emily was framed in the window more than once during the story. “When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows-sort of tragic and serene.”(17) LaDonna said this was a hint of the sublime.

After the realization that Ms. Emily had poisoned Homer so she could have in death what she never was able to have in life because of her fathers overbearing personality, we began the discussion.

Question Can “A Rose for Miss Emily be viewed as a Romantic work?

Comments David said that Faulkner had taken a Poe type stance and used the gothic to represent decay literally and figuratively in the Old South.

Kellye said that the story showed the people of the Old South not wanting the let go of the past and Jennifer added that was why the town tolerated the caprices of Ms. Emily.

We discussed light and dark imagery and the “desire and loss” element embedded in the fabric of the story.

Because the narrator chooses to skip around regarding the memories of Ms. Emily and does not go in a chronological order, the class had a discussion on the fact that Ms. Emily had actually been lying beside Homer in her twilight years. We concluded this was probably the case.

Lynda asked if anything is ever said about the statement that Homer likes to go drinking with young men, and other teachers agreed that is an issue that arises every time we are teaching the story to a group of high school children..

What is the significance of the title? We did not come to a conclusion about that issue. Some scholars have mentioned the imagery in the upstairs bedroom is full of rosy colors, suggesting that Emily has her rose in Homer’s death. Other students thought the title suggests a tribute to Ms. Emily by the town which is so resistant in letting go of the past.

Finally, Al pointed out the correspondence between the house and Emily, comparing it to “The Minister’s Black Veil,” where everyone wants to know what is behind the veil, just as everyone wants to know what is in Emily’s house. Al also discussed the image of Emily silhouetted as an “idol,” which seemed to signal something primitive and pagan, contrasted to the image of Emily as an angel.

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