The paper analyzes the short story “A Rose for Emily.” The story comes across as a little macabre and also a little horrifying. But behind all its horror, this is a story of obsession, of loneliness, and of the human need to connect with other human(s). These are common human emotions, experienced by almost every person who comes into this world. In this paper, five published papers have been used to understand as to why “A Rose for Emily” is such a blood-curdling, yet feelingly moving, story.
She is also who doesn’t care about how the society perceives her. She is set in her ways. But behind all these very human qualities is a person who is capable of extremism and this is revealed right at the end of the story. The end of the story might shock some while leaving others assured of Miss Emily’s inflexibility as a person. Miss Emily is also someone who holds dignity and honor in high esteem, and this was probably the reason behind her doing what she did. In other words, Faulkner hints that Miss Emily’s beau ideal is homosexual and that she poison’s him to save face, thus suggesting the chivalric courtship ritual, so subscribed to by the Old South, was in reality a sterile vision. (Blythe)
A critic, Lionel Trilling argued that in spite of the dramatic stress and ominousness of Faulkner’s work, its consequences were too insignificant. Conversely, critics who saw this story as one of Faulkner’s best, tried to show that it was not an event without consequences and also that it was not just a psychopathological case history put forth to disturb the reader.
“A Rose for Emily” is a story in which a woman kills her lover and lies for years beside his rotting dead body. This is seen as essentially trivial in its horror because it has no dire consequences and also because it is an event which has no significant value.
Additionally, about forty articles were written after Trilling’s critique of the story, trying to point out elevated and universal meanings in the story, to demonstrate that the horror has meaning.
In these articles some critics ascribe to Emily conscious motives, freedom to choose, and independence of spirit. Emily is a sensible lady, her actions are taken as being well-thought out and based on decisions of value and as the result of incomprehensible, diseased mental disorders.
Emily is a self-assured person, when she meets the world she meets it at her own terms. Her behavior brings out impressive and even admirable aspects in her personality. Moreover, she can be perceived as an impressive representation of abstract generalizations. What most critics do when analyzing this story is that they see an abstract conflict of values in it; and ignore what can be referred to as Emily’s inner world.
And when it comes to binary oppositions, the story is considered to be a clash between the following oppositions, and in each of them Emily represents the first instance-past versus the present, the south that tries to arrest the progress of time versus the up-to-date North. Individualism unaccepting of tradition versus social norms, meaningful existence versus trivial daily cares, high gentry versus the masses, and finally, man in conflict with mortality, change, the passage of time, impermanence versus acceptance of all these. (Perry)
Time is the unseen character that battles, defeats, and mocks everyone. In the story, too, it does that. Time makes Emily a fallen monument and Homer Barron something worse. In her own private way Emily defeats time by preserving Homer, by denying Colonel Sartoris’s death, and by denying her father’s death. Yet her victory is monstrously expensive.
Time does a lot of things in the story; it mocks the mentality of Colonel Sartoris’s generation, accustomed to make pronouncements into perpetuity. It mocks the romantically forgetful memories of the Civil War veterans who see the past as not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches; and finally it mocks the townspeople themselves who thought they understood its workings and inevitability, yet who find that their leading symbol of the past has been in love, all these years, with a corpse-surely an ironic emblem for a romantic society. (McGlynn)
A Rose for Emily can be interpreted as a tale of the catastrophe that can result when someone allows illusion to become confused with reality. All interpretations of “ A Rose for Emily” tacitly or openly assume that its narrator has slight importance as a character, for his function is to be window pane of Miss Emily’s Life. One critic calls the narrator an “extreme of anonymity” who comes close to being totally objective.
Published criticism of this story shares two assumption: that Miss Emily is its only important character and that she is somehow objectively presented; that is, that she can be analyzed as though she had an existence apart from the consciousness through whom Faulkner chose to reveal her. Because “A Rose for Emily” is first person narration, hence it is subject to the questions one usually puts in understanding such a story. For example, who is the narrator and what is his relationship to the main action? Why did the author choose this particular narrator for this particular story? (Ruth)
In “A Rose for Emily” the narrative of the storyteller is desultory. Thus, much of the appeal of “A Rose for Emily” resides in the challenges which its mode of narration poses for anyone attempting to interpret it. “A Rose for Emily” is related by an anonymous narrator in the first person plural. By limiting access to the facts this way, Faulkner forces the reader to search beyond the surface of the narrative for an explanation of Emily’s behavior. This is a formidable task because Faulkner, through his narrator, is describing a psychotic personality. The narrator recognizes and comments perceptively on the superficial aspects of Emily’s bizarre conduct, but he does not attempt to explain the nature of Emily’s derangement nor is he able to offer a motive which would clear up the mystery. In this sense he is a naive raconteur. Moreover, his retrospective narration scrambles the chronology of the story, leaving readers with the task of reconstructing the sequence of events from casual references to time. (Scherting)
On the face of it, Miss Emily is a very a normal person. And she wants normal things in her life. She even used to give china painting classes once. And like any other woman, she wanted to get married to a man and settle down. Miss Emily is head-strong person and that aspect of her personality becomes most pronounced when the reader finds out that she killed her supposed suitor. Miss Emily wants to win, be it in any department of life.
Perry, Menakhem. “Literary dynamics: how the order of a text creates its meanings [with an analysis of Faulkner’s” A Rose for Emily”].” Poetics today 1.1/2 (1979): 35-361.
McGlynn, Paul D. “The Chronology of” A Rose for Emily”.” Studies in Short Fiction 6.4 (1969): 461.
Sullivan, Ruth. “The Narrator in” A Rose for Emily”.” The Journal of Narrative Technique 1.3 (1971): 159-178.
Scherting, Jack. “Emily Grierson’s Oedipus Complex: Motif, Motive, and Meaning in Faulkner’s” A Rose for Emily”.” Studies in Short Fiction 17.4 (1980): 397.
Blythe, Hal. “Faulkner’s a Rose for Emily.” The Explicator 47.2 (1989): 49-50.