A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner: How Growing in Unhealthy Relationship with Father Changed Emily
In William Faulkner’s, “A Rose for Emily”, Emily Grierson was a young lady who spent a majority of her life growing up being sheltered by her father. After her father passed away, Emily had refused to admit he was gone for several days and eventually met a man by the name of Homer Barron whom the townspeople did not approve of. For a while, Emily had secluded herself from everyone and even made some trips to buy arsenic and some men’s items confusing the townspeople on what she was planning. After these trips were made however, no one had seen or heard from Miss Emily up until her death. Before her death, Miss Emily was depicted by the townspeople as withdrawn from society and showing serious symptoms of mental illness. This fact was reestablished as they entered her house after her death and found Homer’s corpse and beside it a long, gray hair. Love is one of the most intensive emotions known to human beings. No matter what type of relationship is formed, whether it be healthy or unhealthy; each and every one of them serve some amount of purposeful impact on how people shape and change as they grow.
Looking back on Emily’s early life it is pretty evident that Emily’s relationship with her father was never all that strong. While it was obvious that her father had love for Emily, he never gave her the chance to grow up and kept her sheltered so she would never be able to create real or meaningful relationships with people. Her over domineering father helps shape her into the socially awkward and isolated woman that is seen later on in the story. While it is hoped that Emily escapes this abuse eventually, it becomes apparent to the reader that she is already too bonded to her father. This is due to the fact that he is the only person she has ever become attached to or even known throughout her life. This bond is particularly evident when her father dies, as she refuses to admit that he is gone for several days. “She told them that her father was not dead… Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly.” (537) At this point in the story, townspeople start to talk and form opinions on Emily’s saneness as it is obviously seen that she has a series of mental problems going on in her life.
Now that Emily’s relationship with her father has been established it’s easier to analyze how this relationship affected her and her mental stability. In this short story Faulkner uses certain objects throughout to describe Emily’s mental state. “It smelled of dust and disease – a close, dank smell.” (535) The dust that is described to the reader symbolizes old age and sitting alluding to Emily’s life as an elderly lady living by herself, isolated from the rest of the world. These objects give an insight into Emily’s life that is not seen through the narration of the narrator/townspeople and helps the reader to form their own opinion on why Emily is who she is instead of basing it off other people’s.
Not long after the passing of her father, a man named Homer Barron came into Emily’s life and many townspeople disapproved. “By entering a love affair with Homer Barron, Emily briefly rebelled against southern values and then, by ending her affair with him, at least as far as the townspeople were concerned, she conformed again to those values.” (Dilworth) Even though townspeople disapproved, Emily did not want to leave Homer, as he seemed to replace the void of her father. In order to placate the town, Emily kills Homer while also securing that he will never leave her since he wasn’t planning on marrying her. At first her plan works as townspeople start to talk about it, stating that Homer “had deserted her… after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all” (536) From first glace, the reader looks at this killing and housing of the corpse as some type of necrophilia; when in fact it is actually Emily’s mental illness worsening because of the isolation and abuse she had faced her entire life.
In order to understand more on who Emily is as a person, a further analysis has to be put into how Faulkner presents her character. In the story, the Freudian Oedipal Complex is expressed throughout to describe Emily’s character and her relationship with her father transferring to her lover, Homer. “Emily’s father had prevented her from maturing sexually in the normal and natural way. Thus repressed, her sexual drives emerged in a tragic form- that is to say, in abnormal and unnatural behavior.” (Scherting) From the townspeople’s perspective, Homer and Emily’s relationship looks normal, however if you apply Emily’s Oedipal attachment with her father the relationship with Homer now seems abnormal and shown to be more of a security for Emily instead of a real relationship.
In conclusion, the underlying message of this story goes further than the belief that Emily was just a mentally ill murderer. The message that the narrator is trying to get across is that relationships take time and need love. Without support, love, or nurture children will never develop a real sense of identity in the world and will more than likely grow up to be reclusive and isolate themselves from the rest of the world just like Emily. This isolation leads to insanity and damaged mental states and is a real world problem. Without love and nurture in our lives everyone would be lonely and secluded.
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