Emily Grieson was a woman with a tragic life story. Through the story of A Rose for Emily, the writer, William Faulkner makes symbolic references of Emily’s appearance. Through Emily’s life transitions and mental disintegration her appearance becomes dilapidated. Judith Fetterley, a feminist writer, also mentions the effects of the time period and what is expected of a woman on Emily’s appearance, in her interpretation of the story. In an interview with William Faulkner he also describes the pressure of the time period on Emily.
A Rose for Emily tells of family history of insanity. Her father was a mighty overbearing man. The Grierson’s held themselves in higher regard than they were worthy of. When Emily was of age, her father would not let any man court her. She was described as a slender woman dressed in white when she was a young woman ready for marriage.
Emily shows signs of a mental collapse when her father passed away. She left his body in her house for three days and did not show any sign of grief. The town people did not question her mental capacity because her father was very controlling of her life. Faulkner describes the town people saying, “We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which robbed her, as people will. Emily was sick for a long time after her father’s death. She cut her hair short, making her look like a little girl. She was described as looking tragic, yet serene. She was actually thinner than usual.”
Emily meets Homer Barron and have a romantic relationship. The town people all whisper their opinions of Emily throughout their courtship. They whisper things like, “Poor Emily.” The town people all believed that Emily should marry. Emily was living a life pressured by the time period that believed that women were worth as much as the man or she marries. Emily was not married at all. She did many things that made the town people talk and speculate. She bought Arsenic which made the town think she might kill herself. Then, she bought a man’s outfit, which made the town believe she was going to marry Homer Barron. She did not do either.
After Homer disappeared, Emily was only seen in her window on occasion. She grew to be fat with a head of gray hair. There was a brief time span of six or seven years that Emily brought herself into the public to give art lessons to young girls. After the girls were grown and stopped the lessons, Emily completely retreated to her house never to be seen again except through the windows. After Emily died, the town discovered the body of Homer Barron in the room prepared for a wedding in the abandoned house. On the pillow next to him, a strand of Emily’s gray hair.
In A Rose For Emily, there was a quote that suggest Emily would embrace the one person that molded her life thus far; “We knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which robbed her, as people will.” Judith Fetterley suggest that Faulkner’s descriptions of Emily’s appearance was symbolic of Emily becoming her father. She says, “Having been consumed by her father, Emily in turn feeds off Homer Barron, becoming, after his death, suspiciously fat. Or, to put it another way, it is as if, after her father’s death, she has reversed his act of incorporating her by incorporating and becoming him, metamorphosed from the slender figure in white to the obese figure in black whose hair is ‘a vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man.’ She has taken into herself the violence in him which thwarted her and has reenacted it upon Homer Barron.”
I agree with William Faulkner that Emily deserved a rose. Emily was a victim in her life. She was raised by a strict, overbearing father that would not let her date. In that time period, women married for a good social standing. Emily did not have a lot going for her in her life. She was apart from her family for most of her life. She only knew what her father would allow for her to know. As soon as he died, she was alone. Through the story, the people of the town talk as if they know what is best for Emily, but no one really offers a helping hand. She did not have any guidance. She locked herself in her house while her mind deteriorated. When she met and courted Homer Barron, she still had hope that she would be okay. When Homer did not offer to marry her, she lost her hope. She does not want to be abandoned again, so she kills him and keeps him in her room for the rest of her life. She also had a family history of being crazy. Faulkner writes that her aunt had mental illness. Emily did not have much going for her. If she were to get a jail sentence, it would be a tragic ending to an already tragic story. Emily’s life was a jail sentence of sorts. She locked herself away and lived a lonely, depressing life. She was an unfortunate person who suffered from adverse circumstances deserved a rose.
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