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Rhetorical Criticism: A Rose for Emily

Few literary works come along only so often that are truly glorified in how a piece of work is written; the actual story aside. One such story is named “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and has several characteristics in this category. The short story is about the death of an elderly black woman and of all the trials and tribulations she and her little town experienced in the last 4 decades. The southern-stylistic article features the quaint woman who is exempt from any form of change; and her taxes, which brings up a turmoil that a new generation of government isn't very fond of. The tale begins at her death and develops backward. She is a ridiculous introvert and the town’s curiosity has its’ bouts with old-fashioned etiquette. In an attempt to not to spoil the ending, the citizens finally realize to what extent she tried to preserve the past and that it is truly a funeral not for one, but for two. This is a genuinely crafted story with elements of developed characters, descriptive settings, and interesting symbolism. The following recollection is an accurate portrayal of the above focuses.

As stated, thought was clearly given to the development of characters. The author revised the story to limit what the reader knew about each character. Ultimately, the reader was limited in what could be foretold from the dialogue, and with the delicate foreshadowing. The first of these obscure characters is Emily, a fat old woman. At first glimpse, the obvious ordeals are in her inability to accept change, lack of sociable charisma, and abundance of craziness. In the story, a gentleman named Colonel Sartoris exempts the Griersons of any taxes in Jefferson, the town they reside in. When the mayor dies and a new wave of government comes into office, they send invoices of property taxes to her residence. Emily, in turn, ignores them, writes them back politely mocking them and even sends away their taxman with a firm faux-compromise (Faulkner, 2). At the age of 30, she stopped going out altogether, and the only sign of life at the estate was her manservant Tobe for the grocery. These seemingly small details incubate a canvas to grow the perception that Emily at one point in time was real. Bringing in nature vs. nurture, Emily was raised by youth to be an introvert, and that exponentially grew as time passed. It may not even have been her fault she was crazy. Yet, in another light she was not the only well developed figure. Figuratively speaking, the town itself was personified. All in unison they seemed to think nearly the same way and conclude to the same opinion. In reference to the death of her father, Emily again refuses to believe he is deceased, and the women of the town try to offer condolence. The professionals offered closure in another form; “…the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body” (Faulkner, 3). The gossip finally pities her of her condition. These ideas and actions are so in tune with one another that the town may very well be just another character that worries and wonders about her condition. The setting is also very fitting for the events that followed.

Picking up where we left off, the vivid setting painted by the author is nothing short of inspiring. Specifically, a well-executed setting calls for colorful wordplay, carefully placed major and minor details, and particulars of certain areas or time frames. For example, the Grierson residence was presented like that of an old Victorian house, “It was furnished in heavy, leather covered furniture” (Faulkner, 1). The idea of her home being intertwined with being timeless and disused gives the impression no visitors had come for some time. Likewise, the small settlement was intricately laced with visual catalysts that sparked memories not belonging to the reader. “But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting … above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores.”That single solitary sentence gives a lot of depth to the street she lived on. It also gives geographical reference to a western, humble town; common for that century. What was once the most select street of the turn was soon the ugliest road traveled. Even though the image perceived is hideous, the sheer fact remains that it was elaborated without being elaborated; the mind’s eye pictures details unwritten. Almost like a nonfiction excerpt. Setting and imagery together amplify the power to visualize an entirely different world.

In a third point, a sense of symbolism is present in almost every paragraph of “A Rose for Emily”. Symbolism is simply an artifact or event that acts as a figurehead for something else. For example, Homer Barron’s popularity in the town is representative of Emily’s absence of sociability. Both are attracted to each other, but have pretty different personalities that would not normally mesh. Homer’s reputation delves deeper; almost as a reflection of the town’s own spunk and flair and still tolerant of the frail, low energy Emily. “Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the square, Homer Barron would be in the center of the group” (Faulkner, 4). Alternatively, another key piece of symbolism shines through with the “toilet set” Miss Emily bought for Homer, and everyone soon assumed they were to be married. Unfortunately no, she killed him. She poisoned the man to make him stay, so that no one would leave her ever again. Not like her father, who went and died. Not like that other man, who went and moved on without her.

“Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.” (Faulkner, 7)

To bring an end, the lucid story “A Rose for Emily” is a well written timeless piece that still has literary thought and shock value many years after it was written. It has examples of well developed characters, detailed settings, and important symbolic features. Limitation of details for certain characters until later on was key. A comprehensive setting means vibrant dialogue, cautiously placed details, and accurate regionalism. And Imagery with events or ideas makes literature worthwhile to read and reread. The story exemplifies a model for future works; aspiring authors. No honest moral is visible immediately, but had there be one, it may sound off not far from this;
”The best kind of pest is a dead one.”
Don’t let crazy old ladies hold your town in a stranglehold of politeness and etiquette.




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notyou said...
Jan. 5, 2012 at 9:05 am:
Did you read the story? Miss Emily was the daughter of a rich white man. She wasn't a black woman. Her town was Southern, by the way, not Western. Pay more attention in class next time.
 
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