In “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, the author creates a contradictory image of the main character; the author leads the reader to discover who she is. It is not easy to form one’s own impression of Emily due to the narrative aesthetics characteristic of the author’s modernity. The modernists turned to a reference point that, as they believed, would not deceit them – to their own perception of the surrounding world. Therefore, the narrator plays a considerable role in the modernist novel “A Rose for Emily”, whose experience is always limited by the framework of his attitude to events and their participants. The author violates the chronology of events, guided in the logic of the narrative by his memories, associations, and dreams. Despite the unambiguity of the author’s perception of the heroine, readers’ opinions about Emily were divided. Some consider the heroine a murderer, a living corpse, and a monster. In my opinion, she is an idol and a monument of the beautiful past, an unbreakable pillar of bygone days.
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Firstly, the author himself, who knows all the hidden corners of the heroine’s soul, is favorable to her; describing the main character, the writer calls her an “angel”. After her illness, she looks like “an angel on a church-stained glass window” (Faulkner 22), later, she is compared to a “fallen angel” (Faulkner 26). During a visit to her about taxes, she appears small, with a body that seems to be inanimate and has lain in the water for a long time. When visitors come to Emily’s house to discuss taxes, the author describes her body as inanimate. This suggests the idea of her “life after death” – after the death of her father and Barron when her existence loses all meaning. Even the story’s title indicates Emily’s innocence: it is the rose and the writer’s tribute to his majestic heroine.
“A Rose for Emily” grew out of the conflict between the agrarian South and the industrial North. It was formed in the conditions of constant confrontation between these two opposing forces with different lifestyles and different cultures. The specifics of historical development determined the writer’s worldview, the range of problems he studied, the poetics of this work. The images of southern immaculate belle and her obedient, faithful and happy servant that roam from novel to novel have become the basis of the literature of the “plantation” tradition.
The mysterious Emily is a kind of relic, a fossil that the city cherishes. The special symbolism of this story is associated with the period of history when the story takes place. It happened in the first decades after the Civil War between the North and the South and the abolition of slavery. It is not by chance that Emily, whose family so recently kept plantations and slaves, falls in love with a hard worker, who symbolizes the factories of the North. She confronted the Northerner Barron, devoid of any ethical guidelines; although her victory looks ominous, the southern aristocrat Emily still comes out victorious from this confrontation. The image of the Old South, with which the heroine is identified, represents a world of nobility and chivalry. Despite the Southerners’ defeat, it continues to morally oppose the evil, pragmatic North, which Barron personifies in the story.
Although Emily did commit crimes, it is worth considering her victim’s identity. The poison which Emily ordered has the inscription “for rats” on the container (Faulkner 30). Thus, the reader has an associative connection “Homer Barron is a rat.” The word “rat” usually refers to vile people who are morally dishonest, so this somewhat justifies the heroine’s act. According to the locals ‘ point, Emily was compromised by Barron. The exact reason for the action committed by her is not reliably known; perhaps the hero did not intend to marry her. It seems to be a plausible point of view that Emily found him guilty of their premarital affair and violating the strict traditions of the south.
Confirmation that Emily is a good person can be found in the fact that the Negro Toby continues to serve his mistress even after the war’s end. Although he had many opportunities to leave her, the slave remains with her throughout her life, and only after the heroine’s funeral, he disappears forever. Thus, the presence of the characters is demonstrated not only as a social but also as a psychological connection. The heroine was able to establish such a strong connection, which is stopped only after the death of a slave owner. This fact indicates that Emily Grierson had the best human qualities.
Emily’s love story reveals a small but essential part of American history. It is a requiem for a marked line of history – the line of the heyday of the American South. The heroine is an unhappy woman, a shatter of the era; she fails in trying to adopt the lifestyle of a northern lover clinging to their southern roots. Emily is just a child of the age of significant changes, and a victim of inevitable social changes.
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Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. Perfection Learning, 2017.