William Faulknerâs âA Rose for Emilyâ was originally published in the April 30, 1930. An unnamed narrator describes the strange circumstances of Emilyâs life and her strange relationships with her father, her lover, and the horrible mystery she conceals. The action takes place in the town of Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha. Jefferson is a critical setting in much of Faulknerâs fiction. The principal themes of the story are: bitterness, resentment, generation gap, disillusionment and suppressed forbidden love.
The story helps understand the human psyche. The author touches various issues connected with dark aspects of human life. In Faulknerâs position I cannot find absolute evil or good. Both those aspects form human soul.
Faulknerâs âA Rose for Emilyâ tells a reader how a spinster is hoarding the body of the killed lover. The story deals with a murder caused by possessive love, showing the face of death which results in repulsion and compassion. The woman not only took away her loverâs life, she also kept the dead body in her house. As a result, I understand that she punished him by eternal life with her. Emily had a husband for her own. While reading this story, I witnessed that Emily was not afraid of dying. The death made an agreement with Emily which was based on life for life principle. Emily had to give her own freedom and personality. The author shows how death can reveal human secrets and mysteries and change indifference into sympathy.
Faulknerâs “A Rose for Emily” is a story of a woman who has killed her lover and lain for years beside his decaying body.
âA Rose for Emily is trivial in its horror and a psychopathological case story which is able to titillate readers. I consider that the horror is meaningful in this story.
Emily can be described as a conscious woman who possesses freedom of decision and independence of spirit. Emily perceives the world on her own rules. Her conduct shows impressive and remarkable aspects in her personality. Her actions are based on decisions of value.
The main concept of the story is that if a person resists change, he/she must love and live with death. Consequently, nobody must resist or fully accept change. Death is first described in the first paragraph of the story. Then it is repeated in the tale, including the death of her father, of Colonel Sartoris, and finally of Homer Barron. Homer Barron is a largely flat character. He plays an integral part, for it is he that supplies the cadaver so imperative to the plot. According to the collective narrator, he is âa Northerner, a day laborer,â âa big, dark, ready man,â he laughs a lot, and he curses âthe niggersâ (Faulkner, 669). Emilyâs figure is controversial. The story makes the reader create around Emily an aura of elevated meanings, to perceive her as an impressive and symbolic figure. While reading the story, one can feel pressure among different ways of perceiving the main character. There is no doubt that Emily committed a pathological murder. I consider that the most impressive moment of the story is the picture of loverâs poisoning and later, the harboring of his dissolving body for a long period (forty years). Emily was treating the corpse of her dead lover as still living for several years. William Faulkner constructed the image of the woman whose contact with reality was insufficient. Emilyâs borderline between reality and fantasy was blurred.
Emily is struggling with her generation, life and traditions in the Old South.
In this story the authorâs language predicts and builds up to the climax of the story. Faulknerâs choice of words is descriptive. âA Rose for Emilyâ begins with death, turns to the near distant past. Consequently, it leads on to the decease of a woman and the traditions of the past she personified in the story.
Faulknerâs âA Rose for Emilyâ is considered to be a multi-layered masterpiece. The author uses the language, characterization, and chronology, a psychological narrative, and a sober commentary.
The author begins his story at the end. The reader finds out that Miss Emily died. That is, why I can conclude that death is one of the principal themes in this tale which helps us understand the borderline between life and death, value of parents, lovers in our lives. The death of two people close to Emily, influence her character. Her father and her lover die. When Emilyâs father dies, the people try to advise her to bury him. Only after three days she understood he must be buried. Everybody begins to feel sorry for Emily. The only thing left to this woman is the house where she lives alone and pauper. Consequently, she becomes sick.
Miss Emilyâs house represents âstubborn and coquettish decayâ above new generations and traditions, âan eyesore among eyesoresâ (Faulkner, 666). The house has been closed to the public for ten years. It âsmelled of dust and disuse â a closed, dank smellâ, and when visitors were seated a âfaint dustâ rose âsluggishly about their thighsâ (Faulkner, 667). At the climate ending Emily is described to be a woman, who âlooked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water and of that pallid hueâ (667). While reading this story I could feel that her âvoice was dry and coldâ (667). I suppose that Faulkner flashed back in time in order to reveal the circumstances that led to death. The first suspected episode that caught my curiosity is the mention of âthe smellâ, which occurred âthirty years beforeâ (667). During the whole story the author kept his readers guessing the significance of the âsmellâ.
The author also hints at the tragic ending while describing the death of Emilyâs father, of Colonel Sartoris: âShe told them that her father was not deadâ (Faulkner, 669). And then, the unknown narrator comments: âWe didnât say she was crazy thenâ (669). The author alludes to the tragic end when Miss Emily purchased the arsenic, she looked through her âcold, haughty black eyesâ¦â (Faulkner,670).
In conclusion I may say that Emily was not afraid of dying. She was not understood by her contemporaries. Her father was a stubborn man who thought that no one was good enough for his daughter. He drove away all the young men who were interested in his daughter. And when Emily fell in love with Homer Barron, later she found out he liked men and was not a âmarrying manâ. All these factors resulted in Emilyâs decision to choose death as the only possible means.
1. Faulkner, William. âA Rose for Emily.â Literature: The Human Experience. 8th ed. Ed. Richard Abcarian and Marvin Klotz. Boston: Bedford, 2002. 666â672.
2. Allen, Dennis W. “Horror and Perverse Delight: Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily.'” Modern Fiction Studies 30, 4 (1984): 685-96.
3. Inge, M. Thomas, ed. William Faulkner: A Rose for Emily. The Merrill Literary Casebook Series. Columbus: Charles E. Merrill, 1970.
4. Barnes, Daniel R. âFaulknerâs Miss Emily and Hawthorneâs Old Maid.â Studies in Short Fiction 9 (1972): 373-77.
5. Rodgers, Lawrence R. ââWe All Said, âShe Will Kill Herselfââ: The Narrator/Detective in William Faulknerâs âA Rose for Emily.ââ Clues: A Journal of Detection 16.1 (Spring-Summer 1995): 117-29.
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Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the major themes in “A Rose for Emily” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “A Rose for Emily” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Diagnosing Miss Emily in “A Rose for Emily”
Miss Emily Grierson, the title character in the story “A Rose for Emily," is certainly a bizarre character. Withdrawn from society, trapped in a world of delusions, Emily never receives any psychiatric treatment, but she definitely exhibits symptoms indicative of mental illness. By examining Emily’s behavior and her social relationships, it is possible to diagnose Emily with a mental illness. Although her community never thought Emily was “crazy," she was indeed a very ill person. If you're having trouble identifying signs of mental illness in Miss Emily, this psychological character analysis of Emily will be quite helpful.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Role of Community in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
In “A Rose for Miss Emily," the entire community conspires—albeit unconsciously—to protect both Miss Emily and the small town from the shame and stigma of Miss Emily’s illness and idiosyncratic behavior. By examining the different behaviors and statements of the members of the community, the reasons for their denial will be identified and analyzed. It will be argued that the community is highly invested in protecting their identity as an upstanding, traditional Southern community. Even though their behavior is dysfunctional, it is adaptive for their purposes.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Importance of Physical Place in “A Rose for Emily”
There is the macrocosmic setting of the South that lends a sense of place, both physical and psychological, to “A Rose for Emily," as well as the microcosmic setting of the house in which Emily has spent most of her adult life in bed with the corpse of her fiance. Both places are critical and are used to reinforce the psychological landscape of the story. By examining both of these settings—the macrocosmic and the microcosmic—the writer will explain how physical place contextualizes and emphasizes psychological place.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Effect of the Omniscient, Anonymous Narrator in “A Rose for Emily”
One of the interesting techniques that Faulkner used to develop “A Rose for Emily" was his use of an unnamed narrator whose relationship to Emily and whose role in the life of the town is somewhat ambiguous. Still, the reader cannot help but be struck by the way in which the narrator tells the story of the strange Miss Emily, constantly using the word “we" to describe the feelings of the townspeople and their suspicions of Miss Emily. In this essay, the effect of this narrative style will be examined through close textual analysis.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic # 5: The Role of “The Negro" in “A Rose for Emily
One of the only townspeople to have contact with Miss Emily during her years of isolation is an older African American man who never speaks but who nonetheless plays a critical role in the development of the story. Though he is asked what happens inside the house, he never discloses any of Miss Emily’s private behavior, despite its eccentricity. The writer will analyze the character of the Negro, who is unnamed, and the importance that he has in the story’s development. The writer will also speculate on the reasons for his secrecy.
For more a more extensive understanding of a few of these themes in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, check out the helpful articles A Psychological Character Analysis of Faulkner's Miss Emily and Comparison of Themes in “A Rose for Emily" “The Yellow Wallpaper" and “Sweat"
This list of important quotations from “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “A Rose for Emily” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town…." (47)
“I’d be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily…." (50)
“Dammit, sir…will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad " (51)
“The day after [her father’s] death, all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. Miss Emily met them at the door,… with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days…. " (52)
“We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that." (52)
“She carried her head high enough—even when we believed that she was fallen." (53)
“[T]he law requires you tell what you are going to use [the arsenic] for. Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up." (54)
“So the next day we all said, ‘She will kill herself’ and we said it would be the best thing." (55)
“Thus she passed from generation to generation—dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse." (57)
“The Negro met the first of the ladies at the front door and let them in… and then he disappeared. He walked right through the house and out the back and was not seen again." (58)
Reference: Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily." Selected Short Stories. New York: Modern Library, 1993.