A Rose For Emily: Emily Grierson Analysis

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Emily Grierson is the most critical character in William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily.” She is living an unsocial recluse life and who changes from a hopeful and vibrant girl to a secretive and secluded older woman. Emily’s character analysis goes in many directions, and it is impossible not to examine her in a contextual as well as psychological light. Alone and devastated after her father’s death, Emily is left penniless and quickly becomes an object of pity for the Jefferson townspeople. The narrator portrays her as an arrogant, irritating, and lonely woman who sees herself better than other Jefferson’s residents. Perhaps the former two are the reasons why she lives an isolated life with no suitors and friends in a small town in Mississippi. Miss Emily’s idiosyncratic and erratic behavior in the story becomes utterly bizarre to the townsfolks and much of a shock to the readers. As the story end, people are left wondering how she spent years living with Homer Barron’s corpse. Because Mr. Grierson kept his daughter isolated for much of her formative years, Emily’s instabilities and arrogance lead her in a different life direction, and this loneliness has for its object the formation of character.

Emily, in this story, is the classic outsider who exhibits the qualities of the controlling, stereotypical, unbalanced southern eccentric person. She feels the crushing weight of her insolence and social isolation, and because of her arrogance, Jefferson’s townsfolk take pleasure in her tribulations. They speculate and gossip about her activities, although none of them expect Homer befriends her. Emily is born during the Civil War and is proud to live with her father in a big, squeamishly, well-decorated house (Faulkner). As the last surviving member of an upper-class family living in the south, she views herself better than other residents in the town. As a result, she is desperately lonely after her father dies. Emily quickly seizes the opportunity for companionship from Barron, hoping for marriage despite him not being a suitable suitor for her.

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Becoming a wife is somehow important to Miss Emily in upholding the respectful standards of a Victorian woman. To the narrator, this is perhaps also another reason why she allows herself to be courted by Homer Barron, a Northerner foreman, and a suitor below her class to boot (Faulkner 4). Although he wins many admirers in that town with his light-colored eyes, booming voice, and dark completion, Homer is not the type to marry. The townspeople, regardless of his attributes, perceive him as scandalous, if not, a poor choice for Emily as a mate. Faulkner uses his characterizations to reveal the eccentric personality of Miss Emily (Faulkner 5). Furthermore, his story is divided into parts and expresses Emily’s character through emotions, direct comments, and actions of other people in the chronicle. As the story develops, the narrator draws Miss Emily as a stubborn character. In particular, how she changes her way of living, and this quality is demonstrated many times throughout the article by direct actions and clear statements through dialogue.

Moreover, the narrator portrays Mr. Grierson as a controlling father who deliberately thwarts her daughter’s attempts to find a partner. He believes none of the young men was good enough for Emily, and the reader gets a glimpse of him in the story as an overprotective father (Faulkner 3). Despite her father controlling behavior, Emily worships him, and because of this arrogance, she has no suitors and friends. When she finally got to be thirty, Emily is still single. She continues her family tradition of believing her social status is higher than that of other people like her great-aunt- old lady Wyatt, who had gone completely crazy at last. Her character, in itself, represents tradition, and her image reflects the southern gothic traditions that people wish to honor and respect (Faulkner 1). However, Emily is completely detached and seen as a burden by Jefferson townspeople nursing the idiosyncrasy they fail to comprehend.

In the story, Faulkner presents two visions, one based more on subjectivity and then in the objectivity and mathematical precision of reality. In the prior perceptual experience, time moves forward, but in the latter visual sense, it moves forward relentlessly, and only the present exists. Besides, Faulkner’s story is not in chronological order but rather completely out of it, adding climax and mystery (Faulkner). The first section commences with the death of Emily Grierson and relates the actions and thoughts of the small town. The tension between Emily and the society is the main reason for her insanity and recluse, and a flawed relationship between the two can be seen throughout the five sections of the story. The narrator as well deepens the mystery of how much he knows of Emily’s character at the end of the story (Faulkner). He confesses to knowing that an upstairs boudoir had been sealed, and the readers never find how he knows about it. It can be argued that perhaps he is Tobe (Emily’s former servant) who would have known her secret intimately.

By analyzing the hidden message of Faulkner’s story “A Rose for Emily,” using reader-response criticism, the aspects of gender, race, and secrets found in the anthropology show Emily is a necrophiliac. She refuses to accept the fate of death when both her controlling father and Homer Barron pass away. This quote, “Miss Emily met them at the door, dresses as usual and with no trace of grief on her face,” (Faulkner 3) shows that Emily tried to defy death by holding to these bodies. Emily treated both dead bodies as if they were alive because she feared the idea of change. The father controls Emily, and after he dies, the daughter controls him temporarily by refusing to give up his corpse. This character is transferred to Barron, the object of Miss Emily’s affection. Unable to find a way to express her love and again because of her arrogance, Emily killed Barron to make sure that he will never leave her and achieve total control over him.

In presenting this character’s inner lives and enthusiasm, Faulkner does not rely on the predictable, traditional linear approach. Instead, he shifts, fractures, and manipulates time, stretching this narration over several decades, and the reader learns Emily’s character through a series of flashbacks. The title “A Rose for Emily” is used as an allegory to show that Emily is a woman whom the town should have handed a rose as a sign of pity. The only thing the townspeople did was take pleasure in her tribulations. Nobody did anything about it, and maybe it is upon the reader to be more empathetic about her character and find a deep awareness and sympathy for her sufferings (Faulkner). Just like the character of Emily- coquettish and stubborn, the house signifies preservation and endurance of southern tradition. This custom appears to be outdated with all the gasoline pumps, cotton wagons, and industrial land surrounding it (Faulkner 1). In another context, it represents demise, alienation, and mental sickness and is a living example of a celebrated past. As a matter of fact, literary analysis of Emily’s character against his overprotective father causes the obvious mental illness and bizarre behavior in her life.

In conclusion, Emily’s character is a reflection of tradition, and death, from the beginning, is a significant element of the story. She is portrayed as arrogant, irritable, lonely, and a symbol of the old aristocratic southern class whose charm and uprightness has declined with time. In reading this story, one gets the indication that on multiple occasions, people may attempt to exert power over others. This is the main reason why Emily lives a solitary life with no suitors and friends in that small town in Mississippi. As the narrator tells, Mr. Grierson’s power over her daughter denies her the chance to find a husband. As a result, Emily is completely detached and seen as a burden by the townspeople. She feels the crushing weight of her social isolation, haughtiness, and because of her arrogance, Jefferson’s residents take pleasure in her tribulations. Accordingly, this behavior nurses the idiosyncrasy they fail to comprehend and has for its object the formation of character. 


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