Faulkner’s “a Rose for Emily” Portrait of the Post War South

Topics: Short story, Southern United States, William Faulkner Pages: 5 (1998 words) Published: October 20, 2008
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is perhaps his most famous and most anthologized short story. From the moment it was first published in 1930, this story has been analyzed and criticized by both published critics and the causal reader. The well known Literary critic and author Harold Bloom suggest that the story is so captivating because of Faulkner’s use of literary techniques such as “sophisticated structure, with compelling characterization, and plot” (14). Through his creative ability to use such techniques he is able to weave an intriguing story full of symbolism, contrasts, and moral worth. The story is brief, yet it covers almost seventy five years in the life of a spinster named Emily Grierson. Faulkner develops the character Miss Emily and the events in her life to not only tell a rich and shocking story, but to also portray his view on the South’s plight after the Civil War. Miss Emily becomes the canvas in which he paints the customs and traditions of the Old South or antebellum era. The story “A Rose For Emily” becomes symbolic of the plight of the South as it struggles to face change with Miss Emily becoming the tragic heroin of the Old South.

Growing up in Mississippi in the late Nineteenth Century and the early part of the Twentieth Century, young William Faulkner witnessed first hand the struggles his beloved South endured through their slow progression of rebuilding. These experiences helped to develop Faulkner’s writing style. “Faulkner deals almost exclusively with the Southern scene (with) the Civil War … always behind his work” (Warren 1310. His works however are not so much historical in nature but more like folk lore. This way Faulkner is not constrained to keep details accurate, instead he manipulate the story to share his on views leading the reader to conclude morals or lessons from his experience. Faulkner writes often and “sympathetically of the older order of the antebellum society. It was a society that valued honor, (and) was capable of heroic action” (Brooks 145) both traits Faulkner admired. These sympathetic views are revealed in the story “A Rose for Emily” with Miss Emily becoming a monument for the Antebellum South.

“A Rose for Emily” is a story about Emily Grierson who kills her Yankee boyfriend Homer Barron and lives with his body in her bedroom for over forty years. However, the story is not really about Miss Emily’s actions, but more about the “society that made her” (Dilworth 254). Miss Emily grew up as part of an aristocratic Southern family, with an overpowering father who refused to allow her to be courted by the young men of the town. It is Emily’s father who first elevated her to idol status by keeping her segregated from her peers. Critic Jack Scherting describes Emily’s father as “an imperious man, proud of his Southern heritage and of his family’s status in Jefferson” (400). However, after her father’s death, the town continues to idolize Miss Emily as a monument of their by gone era. The narrator states this fact at the very beginning of the story when he says “alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (Faulkner 29). Miss Emily was a tradition; she represented the old South and their past. The narrator discloses this fact early in his tale in essence giving the reader a possible explanation to her later actions. Miss Emily is called an idol twice by the narrator which is a “good metaphor because, like an idol she was revered,” (Dilworth 255) just as the South revered their antebellum ways. During the Post Civil War period the Southerners were being forced to change their way of life, to become more like the industrialized North. As the town begins to change, Miss Emily continues to live much as she did prior to the war and this seems to satisfy both. Her father left her broke, yet she never worked outside of the home, she continued to have a black servant, and Miss Emily...

Cited: Bloom, Harold. Bloom Major Short Story Writers William Faulkner. Broomall: Chelsea House, 1999. 20 July 2008. NetLibrary. EBooks. LSCO, Orange, TX. 27 July 2008.
Dilworth, Thomas A. "A Romance to Kill For: Homicidal Complicity in Faulkner_ ‘Rose for Emily’” Studies in Short Fiction 36 (1999): 251-62. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. LSCO, Orange, TX. 19 July 2008.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 10th ed. New York: Longman, 2007. 28-34.
Scherting, Jack. "Emily Grierson_Oedipus Complex: Motif, Motive, and Meaning In Faulkner, _ ‘Rose For Emily’” Studies in Short Fiction 17 (1980): 397-405. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. LSCO, Orange, TX. 15 July 2008.
Sullivan, Ruth. "The Narrator in ‘A Rose for Emily’”_Ed. Laurie L. Harris and Sheila Fitzgerald. Short Story Criticism 42 (1988): 80-89. Gale Research. LSCO, Orange, TX. 16 July 2008.
Warren, Robert P. The Chelsea House Library of Literary Criticism. Ed. Harold Bloom. Vol. 3. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. 1310-311.
West, Ray B. "Atmosphere and Theme in Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily’.” William Faulkner: Four Decades of Criticism. Ed. Linda W. Wagner. East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 1973 Rpt. In Short Story Criticism. Ed. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Sheila Fitzgerald. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale Group. 1988, LSCO, Orange, TX. 73-75. 18 July 2008.
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