A Reader Response Critique of A Rose for Emily

October 31, 2011
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Ben Franklin once said, “Three can keep a secret if two are dead” (Quotationsbook.com). A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, an author born in 1897 and deceased in 1962, a well known Canadian/ British Royal Air Force participant during World War one. William Faulkner created this short story to show Miss Emily’s attempts to stop time and live in the past, refusing to accept any type of change in her life. In that time related to the historical events that symbolized the South’s incompetence to get over and cooperate with the industrialized North after the Civil War ran out. Using reader response criticism, the reader can analyze William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily through action, hidden secrets, and anthropology.
In the story A Rose for Emily there are many actions that the character does that the reader can connect to. First and foremost is the part where her father dies, the author states that, “She told them that her father was not dead and she did that for three days….Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly.” With the loss of a loved one, a close one at that, it brings great grief and denial. For Miss Emily, she kept her fathers’ body and wouldn’t let anyone take it. I can connect to this because I have lost quite a bit of loved ones in my family, all except for keeping their body. Miss Emily lives in denial once her father passes away because that is all the family she has ever really had. Her father refused to let her date and was very over-bearing, with this in mind she never found a man to replace her father once he died, living with sadness not knowing what to do without him. While loss of a loved one is tragic Miss Emily had refused to accept any kind of change in her life, staying inside and sobbing over her father’s dead body gave signs of despair and fear, because something new happened in her life. Another example is at the end of the story, when Miss Emily is deceased, they go into her house and find a room barricaded and inside laid Homer, her fiancées’, dead frigid body. “The man himself lay in her bed….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.” While Homer Miss Emily’s supposed fiancée laid in her bed, people began to believe that Miss Emily had killed her own husband, in a sense of denial and afraid to lose another man in her life. Miss Emily had kept his body, and with the indentation and the piece of gray hair on the pillow it showed that Miss Emily had probably slept next to him day in and day out. Homer had been the only thing Miss Emily had left.

Many things are foreshadowed and hinted throughout A Rose for Emily, leaving the reader to decode phrases and secrets about William Faulkner’s work. A simple yet mysterious phrase stated by Miss Emily in the drug store, a phrase so simple yet so meaningful, “I want poison.” The reader can foreshadow what might happen next by the event that a death may occur. Miss Emily claims the poison is for the rats when the druggist asks her what she needs it for. This foreshadows what happens in the end of the story with Miss Emily and Homer. In the end when Miss Emily had died they find a room that had not been seen in forty years, they forced the door down to find a man laying in the bed, decaying, his body in a position that made him look like he had been held. It was Homer. The whole town had believed that Miss Emily had murdered him, in order to keep him with her for the rest of her life. “When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray….Up to the day of her death at seventy-four it was still that vigorous-iron-gray, like the hair of an active man.” Is another example of hidden secrets, this foreshadows the gray hair on the pillow next to Homer’s body when the townspeople find him.

Within William Faulkner’s writing there are some great examples of anthropology in his writing of A Rose for Emily. “They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow.” Is a great example of anthropology, in the eighteen hundreds colored people were called Negros never by their names. It was a way to disgrace them. They were supposed to be slaves rather than, normal people. Another example would be when the author said, “Only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.” The author basically states that a man could say anything and a woman would believe it. Women were naïve and had no idea of current events, they followed news by gossiping, and would believe anything anyone said, no matter how foolish it may seem.

Conclusively, the reader can analyze William Faulkner’s A Rose For Emily by using reader response criticism through action, hidden secrets, and anthropology. The reader can learn the reasons behind Miss Emily’s actions and why she does the things she does in the short story. By knowing this the reader can better understand the story. The significance of the story is to symbolize things back in the eighteen hundreds, and give the readers something to connect to by loss of a loved one, living in denial, and different characteristics of people back then.
http://www.enotes.com/rose-emily-criticism/rose-emily-william-faulkner





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