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A Rose for Emily (Written Report)

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An analysis of William Faulkner's short story.
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  Babasa, Ma. Cecilia Beatriz M. IV – BSITEEsguerra, Dianne E. A Rose for Emily  by William Faulkner   A  BOUT THE  A  UTHOR  :   William Faulkner, born in New Albany, Mississippi, 1897, was one of the 20 th century’s greatest writers. He became renowned through his novels which explore the South’s historical legacy. Someof his major works include: The Sound and the Fury  (1929),  As I Lay Dying  (1930), Light in August  (1931), and  Absalom, Absalom!  (1936). His writings are all set in his fictional Mississippi County, Yoknapatawpha, which provides the readers a look into the practices, folkways, and attitudes thathad divided and united the people of the South since the nation’s inception . H ISTORICAL C ONTEXT :   At the end of the Civil War and eradication of slavery, the Southerners were torn between theirold traditions and the new and more established world order. Religion and politics brought morecomplications and divided its people instead of providing order and guidance. Gossip, judgment andharsh pronouncements were prominent in society preventing individuals to realize their potentials orto establish their place in the world. G ENRE : Southern GothicSouthern Gothic is characterized by grotesque, macabre, or fantastic incidents  which e xploresocial issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South . D  ATE OF F IRST P UBLICATION :    April 30, 1930 P UBLISHER  :   Forum Magazine  N  ARRATOR  : The townspeople of Jefferson P OINT OF  V  IEW : Stream of Consciousness The narrator always refers to himself in collective pronouns (e.g. we   ). He is perceived as the voice of the citizens of the town of Jefferson.  T ONE : Ironic, Confessional, Gossipy, Angry, and Hopeful   ã   Ironic o    The story is ironic because Ms. Emily is continually handed thorns, not roses, (asopposed to its title) and she herself produces many thorns in return. ã   Confessional or Gossipy o    The narrator is confessing the town's crimes against Emily. o   It can be considered gossip if one is confessing the crimes of others. ã    Angry    Babasa & Esguerra    2 o    The chilling first line of Section IV is a good representative of the elements of tone:“ So the next day we all said, 'She will kill herself'; and we said it would be the best thing.”    ã   Hopeful   o    The hopefulness of the town is evident in the title. o    To place one’s self in the shoes of another, such as Emily’s. o    To have compassion for Emily and to recognize her circumstances in order to builda more compassionate future, where tragedies like hers do not occur. S  TYLE : Flashback  The author used flashbacks in narrating Emily’s life. The story begins with Emily’s deathbefore moving to the past. Then, Emily’s funeral becomes a flashback as well when it moves on tothe discovery of Homer Barron’s corpse in her attic. The frequent time shifts portray the past and the present as coexisting and how it influenceseach other.  T ENSE : Past tense S ETTING (  TIME ): 1861-1933 (approximately) S ETTING ( PLACE ): A creepy old house in Jefferson, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi C HARACTERS :   ã   Ms. Emily Grierson – an eccentric recluse who is the object of fascination in the story. ã   Homer Barron – a foreman from the North, who is poisoned and kept in Emily’s atticbedroom. ã   Mr. Grierson – Emily’s possessive and controlling aristocratic father. ã   Col. Sartoris – a former mayor of Jefferson who absolves remits Emily’s taxes after herfather’s death. ã    Judge Stevens – the current mayor of Jefferson, who decides to sprinkle lime aroundEmily’s house to resolve the complaints against the smell emanating from the property. ã    Tobe – Emily’s Negro servant who disappears after his employer’s death. S UMMARY  :   The story, told in five sections, opens in with an unnamed narrator describing the funeral of Miss Emily Grierson. This story is narrated through a first person’s point of view, with the voice of the average townspeople. He notes that while the men attend the funeral out of obligation, the women go primarily because no one has been inside Emily’s house for years. The narrator describes what was once a grand house ‘‘set on what had once been our most select street.’’ Emily’s srcins arearistocratic, but both her house and the neighborhood have deteriorated. The narrator remarks thatprior to her death, Emily had been ‘‘a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town.’’ This is becauseColonel Sartoris, the former mayor of the town, remitted Emily’s taxes dating from the death of herfather “on into perpetuity.’’ Apparently, Emily’s father left her with nothing when he died. ColonelSartoris invented a story explaining the remittance of Emily’s taxes, which is the town’s way of repaying the loan to her father, to save her from the embarrassment of accepting charity. When Miss Emily was young, her father chased away all the men that were in love with her. The summer after the death of his father, she fell in love with a Yankee (man from North) by the    Babasa & Esguerra    3 name of Homer Barron. Everyone in the town was gossiping about their relationship andquestioning if they were getting married. They stopped seeing Homer for a while. When he didreturn they thought that Emily’s marriage was on the way. But nothing came about. Years sped by and Ms. Emily grew old, her hair turned iron-gray, and her body became fat.Miss Emily died years later; the townsmen did not know that she was sick. After the decentburial they gave for Miss Emily, they entered the mysterious house and went to see the locked room. When they opened the room it was full of dust. They gave details that the “room decked andfurnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights,upon the dressing table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man’s toilet things backed withtarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured.” They also saw a man’s collar,tie, suit, shoes, and discarded socks. The most shocking thing was that lying right in the bed was theman; the body had once lain in the position of an embrace. The story said “What was left of him,rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which is lay;and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust.” Then the townsmen noticed that in the second pillow beside the man was the indentation of a head,and one of them lifted something from it and they saw a long strand of iron-gray hair. M ORAL : Be compassionate to others.  T HEMES :   ã    Tradition vs. Change  The story emphasizes the differences between the past, with its aristocracy — ColonelSartoris’ gallantry, the Griersons’ aloofness and pride, and the Board of old Aldermen'srespect for Miss Emily — and the modern generation's business-like mentality, embodied inthe Board of new Aldermen and the many modern conveniences we hear about.Ms. Emily Grierson represents the old tradition, which people wish to respect andhonor. She isolates herself from the outside world and chooses to live in her old dilapidatedhouse, where time has come to a standstill. She refuses any change that comes in her way.For instance, Emily refused to have metallic numbers affixed at the side of her house whenthe town receives modern mail service. Her bridal chamber, which holds the rotting corpseof Homer Barron, is also an attempt to prevent change and stop time, even at the expense of life. ã    The Power of Death  A series of deaths are found in the story.    Ms. Emily’s funeral at the beginning of the story;    Her father’s death prompting Col. Sartoris to remit Emily’s taxes;    Col. Sartoris’ death causes the new Board of Aldermen to attempt incollecting taxes from Emily; and    Homer Barron’s death by poison.Emily tries to deny death as she clings to her deceased loved ones. She clings on to herdead controlling father whose possessiveness was the only form of love she ever knew.Emily refuses to acknowledge death when she poisoned Homer Barron. It is the only method she knows to keep him near her. However, she fails to realize that Homer’s lifelesscorpse will never be able to return her affections. Death ultimately triumphs.    Babasa & Esguerra    4 S  YMBOLS :   ã   Emily’s House o   It represents Emily’s Aristocratic time or the old tradition. o   It represents alienation, mental illness, and death.   ã    The Pocket Watch, the Stationery, and the Hair o   It represents time. o    Although Emily refuses to admit it, she is acutely aware that time continues to moveon. ã   Lime and Arsenic o    These are symbols of a fruitless attempt to hide something embarrassing, and creepy. o   It's also a symbol of the way the town, in that generation did things. o   Emily used arsenic to kill Homer, who was probably planning to break his promiseof marriage to her. She would have considered Homer a “rat.” o   Lime was used to get rid of the smell of Homer’s decaying corpse. ã    Taxes o   It symbolizes death of Emily’s father as the Col. Sartoris’ issues the remission of hertaxes. M EANING OF THE  T ITLE :  “[The title] was an allegorical title; the meaning was, here was a woman who had had a tragedy, anirrevocable tragedy and nothing could be done about it, and I pitied her and this was a salute...to a woman you would hand a rose.”  – William Faulkner 
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