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Critical Analysis of "A Rose for Emily"

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William Faulkner once said, “Given a choice between grief and nothing, I'd choose grief” (Brainyquote). He further explains why he’d do this in “A Rose for Emily”; although the story is not about him, he details the loneliness and selfishness of a poor woman, Miss Emily. Miss Emily is unable to grip the idea of death and suffers great deals of denial. After the death of her father, the townspeople expected her to be in a state of grief but alas she is not. Instead she proceeds to say that her father is very well with her, alive. William Faulkner’s idea of grieving is clear in this story because he shows his audience that it is better to accept death than to ignore it through the accounts of Miss Emily’s journey. William Faulkner’s story takes place in the South, during a time period of racial discrimination and major political change. By using reader response criticism, a reader can analyze “A Rose for Emily” through the aspects of the secret held within the story, race found through anthropology, and gender found through anthropology.
To begin with, one can analyze “A Rose for Emily” by examining the underlying hidden message found within the story. The hidden message that William Faulkner tried to convey in his story was the themes of death and change. Death looms through the story from the beginning right on through to the end as the narrator begins describing the beginning of Miss Emily’s funeral. Miss Emily herself chooses not to accept the fate of death when her extremely controlling father passes away. “Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed` as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead” (Faulkner). This quote from A Rose for Emily clearly shows how Miss Emily tried to defy death by holding on to her father’s corpse and treating it as if he were still living and how fearful she was of change. She later killed Homer to ensure that he would never leave her. Miss Emily continually tried to prevent any sort of change through death or other means from occurring in her town. She was so frightened of change that she wouldn’t allow the city to put numbers on her house for mail. “Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would not listen to them” (Faulkner). Through this quote one can see the struggle that Miss Emily had to maintain her traditions and her attempts to force the town to remain at a standstill. “What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust” (Faulkner). This is Miss Emily’s most severe attempt to preserve her life and the time period in which she lived. She would rather have nothing than grief over something lost.
The next step to analyzing “A Rose for Emily” is to examine race found through anthropology. The South was once known for its extreme prejudice and racism. William Faulkner’s attempts to convey this racism is made clear in “A Rose for Emily”. “They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow” (Faulkner). This use of the derogatory term “negro” clearly shows the author’s intentions. Mr. Faulkner truly conveys the experience of the African American in the time period that this story was written because he is able to show how stripped of their identities they were. By using the terms “negro” or “nigger” to describe African Americans, people were stripping them of their human qualities. This was so severe that in some cases African Americans became “property” to some, which Mr. Faulkner was able to convey. Mr. Faulkner’s use of these derogatory terms also helps to explain the prejudices suffered by African Americans in the South. “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor –he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity” (Faulkner). One can clearly see that Colonel Sartoris’s intentions were to enforce rules in which African Americans were to be seen as workers, not people who socialized. This strongly prejudice of not allowing African Americans to be seen outside of labor as human beings is clearly seen through “A Rose for Emily”.
The final step in examining “A Rose for Emily” is by analyzing gender found through anthropology. Mr. Faulkner explains the roles of women in the South and how they were seen through the eyes of men. “When Miss Emily Grierson died the whole town went to her funeral: the men out of respectful affection for a fallen monument and the women mostly out of curiosity” (Faulkner). One can clearly see that through the opening sentence of the story, the narrator is stating that women gossip while men are caring and serious. This is only one of many passages that show that Mr. Faulkner is attempting to make men the stronger gender. “Only a man of Colonel Satoris’s generation could have invented it and only a women could have believed it” (Faulkner). Colonel Satoris is described as being an ingenious man but in this sentence, Miss Emily’s name isn’t even mentioned when the two are compared. Colonel Satoris is made to be an almost godly figure that is described as being more supreme than the entire female gender. The statement made in this story is that men are the better gender.
In conclusion, there are many aspects that were incorporated into “A Rose for Emily”. William Faulkner was able to create a story involving many ideas about society and how it functioned in a specific time period in the South. To further examine “A Rose for Emily”, one can use the reader response criticism and analyze the aspects of the hidden message found within the story, race found through anthropology, and gender found through anthropology. “A Rose for Emily” is an important element in literature due to examination of the effects of change created in the olden South. This story serves a good example for future generations.
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Works Cited
Brainyquote.com. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_faulkner.html#ixzz1G22wBgTr>.
Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. Print.



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This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

boa06boa said...
May 7 at 12:52 am:
Can I get a good citation for my paper? 
 
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poetnotunderstood said...
Feb. 8 at 2:02 pm:
I have 3 questions about this short story:1) Does race have anything to do with this story? 2) How does Old Colonel, Miss Emily's father, represent the past? 3) Why is the narrator reliability important in reading this story? Please help me understand
 
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alwayswriting said...
Nov. 21, 2013 at 1:21 am:
I would love to use a quote from you in my paper, may I get your name and the pubication date please This article was great, thank you!
 
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kcfoote1 said...
Apr. 16, 2013 at 11:41 am:
I am doing an analysis over "A Rose for Emily" and I want to use your article to help prove some points but I need your name! Could you please let me know your name so I could cite my article correctly. Please and thank you (:
 
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Dream said...
Dec. 14, 2012 at 3:59 am:
Hi, Your analysis was a good one-more comprehensive in describing the theme- among those I've read about this story. Thanks
 
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beeboo06 said...
Mar. 27, 2012 at 12:18 am:

Hi there,

This is a good reference for my paper. May I know your full name so that I can put it in my citation? 

Thanks!!

 
dixies23 replied...
Nov. 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm :
I would like to quote you in my english paper and would like the proper citation, could I get your name and the publication date please? thank you, the article was very good!
 
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