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A Rose for Emily 16

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"A Rose for Emily," written by William Faulkner, "Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor, "The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Toni Cade Barbara's "The Lesson" all share a common theme of isolation. The four stories also share a common thread in each of these short stories is the protagonist's arrogance and pride leads to their ultimate downfall. The story “A Rose for Emily” is told by an unknown narrator who lives in the town of Jefferson Mississippi. The reader is introduced to the protagonist Emily Grierson through the news of her death. Emily is the daughter of one of Jefferson's finest families, when Emily was young she was described as being one of the most beautiful ladies in Jefferson. The Grierson's as a family are very proud. The narrator gives an example of this in the following line, "People in our town…believed that the Griersons’ held themselves a little too high for what they really were" (Faulkner 3). According to Faulkner the Greisons’ home, in its heyday, was located on one of Jefferson’s “most select street” (Faulkner 1). Emily’s character could be described as dynamic because she changes dramatically throughout the story. The reader meets Emily as an old, recluse who lives in an dilapidated house her only company a man servant named Toby. As the story progresses the reader starts to find out what the exact circumstances were that caused Emily to become this person. As a young girl Emily led a very sheltered life. Emily met the town ladies at the door in complete denial. She refused to acknowledge that her father was dead. Emily’s financial and emotional lifestyle Groves 2 changed drastically after her father’s passing. “When her father died…….the house was all that was left to her,” Emily was left alone “and a pauper” (Faulkner 3). The reader can only imagine how her father’s death changed Emily; everything that Emily had known up to that point in her life was about to change. The introduction of the antagonist Homer Barron, a Yankee foreman of the construction company who comes to Jefferson to pave the sidewalks of the town causes Emily to evolve. Emily saw Homer as a way to make a place for herself outside of what her father left to her. It is unclear who pursued whom, but it is clear that Emily was open to Homer’s attentions and most likely welcomed them. The two spent time together taking leisurely Sunday afternoon rides through town. The town itself also plays the role of antagonist. Emily felt stifled under their constant watch, but she held her head high. Instead of wilting under the town’s scrutiny of her relationship with Homer, Emily Griersons’ pride kicked in. “It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness” (Faulkner 4). As time went on the ladies of Jefferson saw Emily’s relationship, or lack of marital commitment with Homer as disgraceful. The ladies persuaded the Baptist minister to visit Emily. When this intervention failed the wife of the minister took it upon herself to contact Emily’s only living relatives. After a year of courtship Emily came to the realization that Homer would not marry her. Emily made the insane but calculating decision to murder her lover. One could argue that Groves 3
Emily’s pride refused to be taken for a fool and wished to put an end to the town’s gossip and interference in her life. This decision was Emily’s way of taking control. Emily refused to accept that Homer wasn’t interested in her as a wife. Emily did not want to live in a great, big house alone. She was willing to kill to keep Homer with her. Even while Emily purchased the poison that would eventually be used to kill Homer, Emily’s pride asserted itself. She demanded the best poison from the druggist. “Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up” (Faulkner 4). The theme for “A Rose for Emily” is the protagonist unwillingness to accept the reality of losing Homer, who she sees as possibly her last chance to have what her father denied her during his life. Emily slips into insanity causing her to take the drastic step of murdering her lover. Like Faulkner’s Emily Grierson, Flannery O’Conner’s protagonist Hula from her short story “Good Country people” allowed her pride to cloud her judgment. Hula/Joy was a college educated women who lived alone with her mother on a small farm. Hulga’s mistake was believing that she knew all there was to know. Hulga thought she could see through the nothingness. That is until Hulga met the protagonist of the story Manley Pointer. She felt a kinship with this young man; Hulga believed that they both suffered from a similar illness. She went with off with him; Hulga thought she was the one with the have the upper hand. The thought never occurred to her that a country boy with no formal education could ever possible cause her harm. Hulga was under the impression that she could seduce and manipulate Manley. Groves 4
By using Hulga’s intelligence and pride against her Manley was able to seduce and humiliate Hulga. Leaving her in a situation where she’d have to beg for help. Manley got the best of Hulga, he played on her weakness, made her tell him that she loved him, made her take off her leg, and then when Hulga had nothing left to give Manley took the leg and leaving Hulga stranded in the loft. “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara takes place in New York’s inner city. “The Lesson” is set in the 1960s a time where many African-Americans were moving north to escape racism and poverty. In ‘‘The Lesson,’’ Miss Moore recently moved into the narrator's, Sylvia's, neighborhood. Miss Moore is different from the other adults in the neighborhood. She wears her hair in its natural curls, she speaks proper English, everyone calls her by her last name, Ms. Moore has attended college, and she feels it’s her duty to teach the neighborhood kids about the world around them. Sylvia is the antagonist in “The lesson”. The story begins with a group of poor, lower class city kids standing in front of a mailbox, preparing themselves for another day of being taught by Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Moore felt that it was her duty to help underprivileged children learn because she was one of the only women in the neighborhood to earn a college degree. Miss Moore decides to take a group of children outside of their natural environment to show them how other people living in the same city live. The trip into the city could be described as the antagonist of the story. The idea is to introduce the children to the possibilities that are out there. During the story Miss Moore asks a question about money. “LOOK for the quote” Groves 5
Sylvia’s pride will not allow her to openly acknowledge that she has learned something from Miss Moore’s trip. This is why her character could be described as semi-flat.

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