An American writer William Faulkner is famous for his short stories which described events taking place in the so-called Yoknapatawpha Count, which is recognized to be a non-existent city. Thus, one of his short stories, namely A Rose for Emily is an issue which is to be discussed below.
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The peculiar feature of Faulkner’s written style is that he uses a lot of various literary techniques, namely, conceit, defamiliarization, epiphany, etc. However, in spite of various use of literary methods, the short story A Rose for Emily abounds in bathos. Bathos is considered to be a kind of anticlimax. In other words, bathos can be considered an abrupt change from significant subject to the normal or even ludicrous one. One also speaks about bathos when mood exaggerates its drama.
In the first sentence of Faulkner’s short story, one can point out the literary technique, which is called bathos:
When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity, to see the inside of her house (Faulkner 9).
If to analyze this sentence one can find that on the one hand, the death itself is not funny at all; however, the author’s next phrase is related to irony which is connected with the women desire to appraise the house where the tragic character lived for many years. Such an abrupt junction from the record of Emily’s death to the subsequent desire of the women to see the accommodation in Emily’s house is recognized to be bathos. In the first sentence, the characters of both sexes are contrasted with each other.
So, it is obvious that men are more devout than women are. What feelings does this sentence provoke while reading? Of course, it is obvious that irony is represented; so, the author describes the women as the creatures whose peculiar feature is the conscious superiority. The desire of the women to see the house is related not to the infantile curiosity, but it is a poorly concealed superiority feeling.
One can speak about bathos in Faulkner’s short story if taking into consideration the following sentence:
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She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand (Faulkner 10).
One can state that this sentence is a kind of symbolism to show the tragedy of the situation in which the main character Emily finds herself in. In other words, one may call it an allegory. However, there is a need to draw a distinguished boundary between these two literary techniques.
Thus, the literary technique which is used in the sentence by Faulkner is supposed to be allegory (when characters are described in a way to symbolize a deeper meaning) as well as bathos, as it is evident that the description of the miserable appearance of Emily is exaggerated to the events which took place in her life at the moment. So, the appearance of Emily portrays her plight and thus, is recognized to be eloquent testimony to bathos.
It seems that the fact of Emily’s tragic fate as well as its corresponding description is not enough; the readers are to be convinced of Emily’s tragedy. So, for this reason, the author provides the readers with stronger means concerning the appearance. Have you ever heard the affirmation that people judge persons by their appearance? Thus, William Faulkner used the same technique in his book. So, bathos was used to assure the readers of Emily’s disastrous situation.
Repetitive designations apart, bathos appears in the following sentences:
They just said, “Poor Emily. Her kinsfolk should come to her” (Faulkner, 13).
And as soon as the old people said, “Poor Emily,” the whispering began (Faulkner 13).
The rustling of craned silk and satin behind jalousies closed upon the sun of sunday afternoon as the thin, swift clop-clop-clop of the matched team passed: “Poor Emily” (Faulkner 13).
That was over a year after they had begun to say “Poor Emily,” and while the two female cousins were visiting her (Faulkner 13).
The phrase “poor Emily” is everywhere. Why wasn’t it enough to use the word-combination at once? In these sentences, bathos was used again to overstate the dramatic changes in the main character’s life. The above-mentioned sentences influence the reader physiologically. Repetitions are used to draw attention to Emily’s loneliness.
However, nobody feels compassion for a woman if to make casual mention of her sorrows. To bring readers to think about Emily’s complicated life, one must read the same phrase several times. Thereby, the author emphasizes the importance of the tragic events which take place in the main character’s life.
Generally, William Faulkner’s short story A Rose for Emily abounds in various literary techniques. Faulkner’s written style is not so easy to understand. His short stories are always very interesting but too tangle.
Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. Ed. M. Thomas Inge. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 1970. Questia. Web.