A Reader Response Critique of A Rose for Emily

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Using reader response criticism, the reader can analyze William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily through action, secret meaning, and anthropology.

In this short story, I can connect to the main characters life in many ways. In the story Emily is very close to her father. Her father controls every aspect of her life, so she doesn’t know any better. When she dies, she doesn’t think it is actually true. “…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. She did that for three days (4)”. When her father died she did not believe it, she was in complete shock. When my grandma died 2 years ago, I went through the same difficulties. My grandma was the closet person to me in my life. When she died I was also in complete shock. I didn’t cry, I didn’t show grief, I just went on with my life. Like Emily, I did not believe she was dead. I can also relate to her in another way. When she broke down crying when she finally realized what has happened. Since Emily didn’t truly believe about the death, she didn’t think of disposing the body. “Just as they were about to resort law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly”(4). She did not want to believe he was dead. When my grandma died I did not want to believe it either. For the first couple of days after I found out, I was perfectly fine. I didn’t think she was dead. When I went to the wake I also broke down. Emily and I were very much alike when it came to people we were close to passing away.

Continuing on, Faulkner uses setting and the time period to show why Miss Emily had such a hard time accepting change and moving on. The story takes place right before the Civil War. Most African Americans were hated and discriminated against but Emily was relieved of that because of her father. “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” (1). Money determined social status during this time period. Since Emily’s father was able to loan the town money, she became a well respected person in the town, even after his death. Having money also means that Emily should have acted a certain way. She should have kept her head up high and moved on after her dad’s death instead of continuing to be sheltered. She chose to not come out of her house for long periods of time. When the people in the town finally saw her she looked very different. “When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows—sort of tragic and serene”(3). Emily tried to pull herself together eventually and attempted to move on. Many found it tragic because they knew she had set herself up for failure. It is impossible to go from a completely sheltered life to independent in such a short time. The hard expectations of women of that time period gave no support in helping Emily adapt to change.

Anthropology is also evident throughout the story. Anthropology is evident mainly through race and religion. All the people of the town follow the same religion and all have the same views or beliefs when it comes to religion. Religion was something that was taken very seriously throughout the town: “Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and bad example to the young people. Then men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister—Miss Emily’s people were Episcopal—to call upon her” (5). The nosy women of the town felt it was their duty to keep the religious tradition of the town strong. They are upset with the fact that she is living with Homer Barron and they are not getting married. The universal religion across the town believed that you must get married if you are going to live together with someone. Race is also an important aspect of the story. At the time, blacks were not considered to be normal people. Blacks were property and they were not given any rights. Black people were not even considered to have a name: “A deputation waited upon her, knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier. They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust and disuse—a close, dank smell. The Negro led them into the parlor” (3). The servant for Miss Emily was black and was not called by his real name. This shows how big of an issue race was at the time.





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