Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

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东 南 大 学
《美国文学史及选读》
期末论文

院 系 外国语学院

专 业 英 语

姓 名 张 诗 卉

学 号 17109201

指 导 教 师 朱 丽 田

论 文 提 交 日 期 2012.1.5

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
——A Probe into the Character of Emily

A Rose for Emily is a short story written by American author William Faulkner first published in the April 30, 1930 issue of Forum. It describes the tragedy of a typical southern lady, Miss Emily, who is deeply victimized in her character and mind by the conventional system of the South and patriarchy; thus even though she wants to fight, she still fails to confront and deal with the changes caused by the shock of northern industrialization all by herself and finally leads to destruction and self-destruction on the way of pursuing happiness. This essay concentrates on exploring the character of Emily with the efforts she has made for her life and especially the reasons for her failure in “fighting” from the three aspects as Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, (the well-known phrase applied from the United States Declaration of Independence).

1. The Backup of Early Life
As a descendent of the southern conventional noble family, Emily was born in the environment full of the thought of feudalism and hierarchy which makes her acquire not only the attitude of arrogance and indifference to common people, but, most importantly, the habit of obedience to her father. Before her father dies, he is the only one Emily could rely on in her family. Therefore, there should be no blame to her that she depended on her father when she was still young, just as most of us would depend on our parents during our childhood and youth. However, the fact the she gets to be thirty and is still single reveals the abnormality of the dependence. Actually, it is no longer pure dependence on her father. Instead, the dependence has developed into over obedience which then is taken advantage of by her father to control her completely under the constraint of the old southern tradition. The control is just described by William Faulkner as the tableau, “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door”. The father, a typical symbol of patriarchy, clutching a horsewhip, acts as a tyrant. It’s him who holds the Griersons always a little too high for what they really are and uses his horsewhip, which exactly symbolizes patriarchy, to beat off all of the young men who come to make proposals to his daughter, Miss Emily, believing that no one is quite good enough for her. In fact, in his opinion, none of the young men are quite good enough not for his daughter, but for the old southern tradition and its dignity. He never regards Emily as an independent individual. On the contrary, he regards her as the tool to maintain their dignity in the conventional system. However, Emily has been regarding her father as the whole backup of her life since she was born. What’s more, she has been in this state for more than thirty years. She has long been used to this dependence and even allows this kind of dependence to conquer her strong desire for free life and love. To her, this dependence is just her whole life. Therefore, when her father dies, she cannot accept the fact because her father is her whole dependence and the dependence is just her whole life. Her father’s death has also deprived all the hope of her life. Her father and the old tradition her father represents are the root of Emily’s tragedy; thus, her father’s death should be regarded as the chance for Emily to free herself from the constraint of the conventional system. It’s the beginning of Emily’s fighting for her own life, liberty and happiness.

2. Liberty
Getting rid of her father’s control is just like releasing from a prison. After a long time of...
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