? by William Faulkner
This is a
well-known gothic story by Faulkner. Clearly, beyond the story about Miss Emily
, the heroine, there is a
strong statement about the South?s pride in its past (see, for example, Emily?s radical attempt to hold on to her past; and the guilt of the past. What was your immediate reaction after reading the story? Usually we are drawn to Miss Emily?s character but we should also focus on the narrator who plays a
significant role here.
In an article written by John Daremo, the author notes that the narrator in the story is, in fact, never precisely identified. Clearly, the narrator changes positions and prisms: occasionally, he is an innocent narrator who conveys a
story ?whose implications escape him?; while in other cases, we sense that we are led by a
coarse even manipulative narrator. In this context, please examine carefully the narrator?s following comment: ?old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a
little too high for what hey really were.? (369.) We should also examine the way he depicts the black townspeople, which is highly and bluntly disturbing. Beyond everything else, there is certain sensitivity here?thanks, of course, to this narrator?who attempts to understand Miss Emily
throughout the story, and to emphasize her human characteristics.
Do we, the readers, sense sympathy towards Miss Emily
? I think the answer is, yes: her character earns our respect. We can describe her as a
strong and somewhat isolated lady, who is also persistent and obstinate. There is a
lot to say about the feminist aspects of the story. Indeed scholars tend to read the story as a
literary work that unmasks gender conflicts within patriarchy (whether of the South or the North, the old order or the new.) Emily
is definitely part of this patriarchal dynamism, and she finds and defines her own ways to struggle.
The title of the story, ?A Rose
?is particularly intriguing. I encourage you to think about it and about the meanings it might suggest. Here are some ideas:
?Presumably the telling of this tale is itself the rose
, the community?s tribute [---] to the intelligible humanity in a
woman whose unhappy life might seem monstrous to less sympathetic observers. Another meaning, however, may be offered (very tentatively) for the title. In the story, Faulkner emphasizes Miss Emily?s attempts to hold on to the past: her insistence, for example, that her father is not dead, and that she has no taxes to pay. Is it possible [then] that Homer Barron?s corpse serves as a
sort of pressed or preserved will, a
reminder of a
past experience of love? If so, the title refers to him.?
For next Monday, Feb. 14, please write an essay (3 pages) about moral dilemmas and conflicts in the story. You may want to focus on the view that the story is an indictment of the decadent values of the aristocratic Old South; or a
defense of these values (embodied in Emily
) against the callousness (embodied in Homer Barron) of the North. You can also explore patriarchal and gender issues and how they are enacted in the story. Please submit the paper by Feb. 14 at noon.
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