Faulkner’s A rose for Emily Essay
A Rose for Emily is one of the better known works of Faulkner since as a short story it has been included in several anthologies and collective works. The story itself is quite unique in the manner that is told to the reader since the narrator represents the collective voice of the town where Emily dwelled. Additionally, the story develops a variety of symbols and a theme dependent on secrets which are gruesomely revealed at the end. In such a manner, this story is much closer to the work done by other American gothic writers such as Edgar Allan Poe. However, the meaning and the symbolism of the story remain far more important than comparisons with other writers (Napierkowski, 1998).
The first symbolic value comes from the way the story is narrated itself since it is the collective voice of the town which is telling the story (Napierkowski, 1998). This could be a symbol of how the world saw Emily and her house which was once the grandest house on the most important street of the town but which changing times and fashion, it became an eyesore amongst other eyesores. Additionally, the character of Emily herself acts as a symbol since the townspeople give her begrudging respect out of her old family name and her aristocratic background. However, the secret that she has is quite interesting and quite disturbing.
As a symbol, the town respects her since she is one of the few bastions of the traditional values left in the city. While the town of Jefferson has rushed towards modernization and towards development, figures such as Emily Grierson remained focused on keeping things as they are. They do not sully themselves by mixing with the locals or by being bullied by those of a seemingly lower social stature. In fact, Emily is able to keep the entire town at bay while she herself does something which is actually quite revolting and psychotic.
Of course the townspeople might have got their hint at Emily being different when she fell in love with a man who was much lower in social standing than her and even worse was a Yankee (Napierkowski, 1998). Additionally, her refusal to bury her father immediately after his death might also have been a clue towards them understanding that Emily had some severe issues with life but since they respected her as a symbol and an institution, no one could dare to question her actions at all.
Over the course of the story we eventually know that not only has Emily killed her lover when he wanted to leave her, she also kept his rotting body in the house and slept next to it for many years until she died. The woman whom the town respected due to her position in society was actually a cold blooded murderer and indulged in necrophilia. Of course, society itself must share the blame for making her this way since it was her father who thought of her to be so socially better than anyone else that he did not let her date and refused the men who wanted to marry her. It does seem like Emily was desperate for human contact and love even if it was just a dead body.
It seems that Emily has spent her life in a constant battle. She was fighting against the will of her father while she was trying to win his love and remain the good daughter. She was fighting to keep her lover with her even though he wanted to go away and the only way she could think of to keep him with her was to take his life. She fought to keep the world outside her house and maintain a safe distance so her secret could not be discovered and she won all those battles in one way or the other and she also lost them at the same time. Her father loved her but that love destroyed her life; her lover left her by a death which was caused by Emily herself and the town invaded her house and discovered all her secrets once she had died.
In my opinion, while I personally reacted with disgust and surprise as the secret was revealed, I later took another look at the story and my reactions became quite different. I do think that despite being a murderer and a psychotic criminal, Emily was also a victim of the burdens and expectations which were placed on her. Her father wanted her to be something which she did not want to be, her lover wanted her to live life without her which she could not and the town expected her to be a perfect citizen and a model institution as a reminder of the past glories. While Emily may have failed others, I feel happy that she eventually managed to live exactly like she wanted to.
“A Rose for Emily: Introduction.” Short Stories for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale, 1998. eNotes.com. January 2006. 26 May 2007. .