Social Prejudices Highlighted in A Rose for Emily
In A Rose for Emily, Faulkner utilizes literary devices to efficiently portray the underlying depth that exists within the story. Faulkner substantially conveys social conflicts that are detrimental to society. Class, race, sexism, and the struggle to conform to society’s expectations contribute to Faulkner’s overall thematic narrative. Faulkner focuses on the life and death of Emily Grierson, a figure representing the traditional South. Faulkner depicts his narrative with a Southern gothic style, closely exploring the depths of dark, morbid themes and traditions of the South. Emily battles her entire hometown and is outcasted and belittled by her peers. The judgement further drives Emily to isolate herself and disassociate herself from society.
Further, values such as class and race play a vital role in A Rose for Emily. Faulkner’s utilization of Tobe, highlights the prejudice that existed within the setting. Tobe is disrespected and dehumanized throughout the story. For example, Judge Stevens refers to him as, “…that nigger of hers…” (Faulkner II). The deliberate circumvention of Miss Emily addressing Tobe by his real name exhibits the dehumanization of colored people during the timeframe. Furthermore, social class orchestrates a division separating the rich from the poor. Miss Emily is greatly judged and criticized for having a romance with the less prosperous, Homer Barron. The townspeople’s reaction to their relationship is visible in the following line, “‘Poor Emily’, the whispering began. ‘Do you suppose it’s really so?’, they said to one another” (Faulkner III). As a result of the barriers set up by society, the townspeople disapproved of Emily’s relationship with Homer. Homer is a humble day laborer whereas Miss Emily was raised in an ostentatious household, this gives the townspeople the impression that Homer is beneath Emily’s social standing.
Next, in A Rose for Emily the Marxist theory approach is present within the narrative, allowing the audience to understand the economic status that is revealed. The Marxist criticism theory, ‘attempts to reveal the ways in which our socioeconomic system is the ultimate source of our experience’ (Owl Purdue. Tyson 277). The economic status was a primary element in A Rose for Emily and was utilized to structure society. Utilizing the Marxist theory perspective, it is evident that A Rose for Emily displays that class affects and greatly influences everyone in the town, which results in Miss Emily’s alienation. Each character symbolizes a different class and how society treats them accordingly. The character’s actions and class correlate to their social standing and what they contribute to society.
In addition, in “A Rose for Emily”. Faulkner’s commentary on the role of women in society is evident; Faulkner believes that women are inferior to men, almost as second class citizens. For example, the story commences with Faulkner stating, “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house…” (Faulkner I). Faulkner clearly states his beliefs and ideas towards gender roles in society by stating that men attended Miss Emily’s funeral with respect and honor whereas women attended the funeral out of their curiosity to view the insides of Emily’s home. Faulkner portrays women as lesser than men in all aspects. Moreover, it is evident that Faulkner believes that a woman’s true contribution and value to society is her appearance. Throughout the narrative much time was spent describing Miss Emily’s appearance throughout her stages of life. No example is clearer than where he says, “When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even-pepper-and-salt iron gray, when it ceased turning” (Faulkner IV). Faulkner gives the impression that a woman’s main value is her appearance because the detail he describes Miss Emily’s in. He doesn’t detail any male character as vividly as he does Emily and he focuses on her appearance beyond any of her other aspects.
Following, the psychological stress that is evident between Miss Emily and the townspeople create the reality that society imposes its unrealistic expectations that are directed to the quiet and submissive minorities. Throughout the narrative Miss Emily is challenged by the townspeople to overcome their subjective thoughts and opinions, but ultimately her will is crushed by the abundant hatred and negative energy. The townspeople consequently state, “She will kill herself; and we said it would be the best thing.” (Faulkner IV). Southeast Missouri State outlines the ghastly conclusion of the story, which portrays the narrator and the townspeople as only ever viewing Emily “from the outside-as the fact that they penetrate the inside of her house only after her death emphasizes”. The constant endeavor for the community to accept Emily as their own and aid her in her physical and mental state was never fulfilled and is the cause of the colossal conflict. The author from Southeast Missouri State suggests that Homer Baron is homosexual based on the assumption that “their relationship may be founded upon an attraction or commonality not readily discernible.” (Jim Barloon, University of St. Thomas). Intriguing, this analysis presents an alternative perspective of the reasoning behind Faulkner’s narrative. To assume that Homer Barron is homosexual, one must reconstruct A Rose for Emily to conform to late-twentieth century philosophy. In doing so, one recognizes the unavoidable evidence of the unwillingness of Homer to commit to a romantic relationship with Emily.
Consequently, one of Faulkner’s main intentions in writing ‘A Rose for Emily,’ was to share Emily’s story, if only obliquely, to salvage her from the curiosity shop to which she had been consigned to by the townspeople. Throughout Emily’s life her out casement in society resulted in seeking alternative ways to fill her empty soul. Emily found this in Homer Baron and wished to keep his affection forever. The townspeople acknowledged that Emily had problems and required attention but they chose to ignore her and essentially bully her with problems she did not know how to handle. Faulkner greatly uses a wide range of themes to successfully convey the true meaning behind “A Rose for Emily” and highlight the key issues that existed in the setting and currently in today’s society.
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