Grotesque Reality in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” tells the life of Emily Grierson and the murder that she dedicates along with the members of her neighborhood. Told from a very first individual’s point of view, the text outlines the formation and death of a murderer whose presence society allowed in order to maintain their beliefs and practices in their neighborhood.
Faulkner’s text consequently provides a different foundation for comprehending the grotesque as it highlights the social conditions that makes it possible for a specific characterization of the grotesque. As Fetterley claims, “Faulkner is not interested in conjuring up the type of monstrous which is the repercussion of reversing the clichés of sexism for the sake of a low-cost thrill … Rather, Faulkner conjures up the grotesque in order to brighten and define the true nature of the conventions on which it depends” (616 ).
In line with this, the following conversation elucidates on Faulkner’s illumination of the conventions that allows sexism in “A Rose for Emily.” The discussion is based upon the argument that by allowing the text to revolve around the life and actions of a female killer, Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” had the ability to represent the unfavorable results of sexism in society.
The text begins by recounting the occasions that took place throughout the death of Emily Grierson. It mentions, “When Miss Emily Grierson passed away, our entire town went to her funeral service: the males through a sort of respectful love for a fallen monument, the ladies primarily out of curiosity to see the within her house, which no one conserve an old manservant– a combined garden enthusiast and cook– had actually seen in a minimum of 10 years” (Faulkner 1).
It is fascinating to keep in mind how from the very start of the text, Ms. Grierson is portrayed as a sign of the town itself. In the beginning she is referred to as “a fallen monolith” which is later followed by a description of her as “a custom, a task, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (Faulkner 3). One may note that this is an outcome of Ms. Grierson’s position in their society.
She was presented by the narrator as the child of one of the most prominent members of their community. As an elite member of the neighborhood, her daddy was illustrated as an authoritarian who limited his daughter’s experiences in the domestic sphere. One need to presume that the very same thing was done to Emily’s mom given that within the text itself there is no mention whatsoever of Ms. Grier’s mom.
The only relations that were mentioned are her two cousins and her Negro servant whose presence was as hazy as hers. This description of her childhood as well as her immediate home environment presents us with a view of the mechanics in their neighborhood.
As a part of an extremely patriarchal community where relations are figured out by the rank of the members within the neighborhood, Ms. Grier was depicted as an individual safeguarded from the world by her household. Nevertheless, at the later part of the text, one sees that it may be the other way around.
Note, for example, that none of the events which took place in the text were ever recounted through Ms. Grierson’s individual accounts. The narrator led the reader to think that the factor for this might be traced to the elitist characteristics of Ms. Grierson and her household. Nevertheless, it is very important to keep in mind that Ms. Grierson herself picked to safeguard herself from the society in which she lived in.
In the latter part of her life, they explained her as a “dear, unavoidable, impervious, relaxing, and perverse” figure who “like the carven upper body of an idol in a niche … passed from one generation to generation” (Faulkner 7).
Her refusal to communicate with any member of the neighborhood may be viewed as her refusal to accept a society which passively accepts the death of a stranger, a non-conformist stranger for that matter, in the kind of Mr. Homer Barron, in order to make sure the extension of their beliefs. In order to comprehend this, it is very important to consider the narrator of the text.
The significance of the first person narrator is evident if one considers that the narrator represent white southern society which is the genuine protagonist in the text. Fetterley claims, “(I)t is a story of the patriarchy North and South, new and old, and of the sexual conflict within it” (616 ).
In line with this, Volpe argues that within the text Faulkner had the ability to develop “the neighborhood as a living entity, a character with a past, a personality, a memory, and feelings by means of the common narrator who spans the numerous generations of Emily’s life time” (99 ).
The neighborhood as a storyteller enabled the neighborhood’s implicit validation of its actions within the text as it argues that their actions are a result of the advancement of their society’s cultural values, attitudes, and habits. In that sense, the narrator is implicitly informing the reader that they may not be held responsible for Ms. Grierson’s murder of her lover, Mr. Barron.
Real enough, one might argue that the community itself did not require Ms. Grierson to dedicate such an act however it might likewise be argued that the neighborhood’s preliminary dealings with Ms. Grierson provided her with a motive for devoting the act. By denunciating her relationship with her fan and by enabling her to engage in questionable actions (e.g. acquiring arsenic without offering a legitimate factor for such an act), they implicitly permitted her to murder her enthusiast.
As was stated in the later part of the text, the members of the neighborhood did not concern Ms. Grierson concerning the status of Mr. Barron as he failed to reveal any sign of life within their community or even within the house itself. Dilworth mentions this succinctly as he argues:
The neighborhood condoned the killing by not publicly acknowledging it and by not examining in order to prosecute the killer, whom they need to have known was Emily. Lawfully, the narrator and other townspeople are, for that reason, devices to murder “after the fact”. Worse, they were prepared, as we shall see, to be accessories to murder “before the truth.” (252 )
For the community, Ms. Grierson thus stood both as a sign of the criminal activity that they have devoted in addition to the symbol of the strength of their beliefs. Ms. Grierson’s character as well as her life might be seen as depicting the impacts of a society that restricts the existence of a private with self-governing beliefs.
Thus, one is presented with the an understanding of Ms. Grierson who is both securing herself from society along with living within the truth which her society allowed her to believe. In the end of her life, by denying the business of other individuals, she enabled herself to be misguided in the reality that she selected to welcome. In this reality, her neighborhood permitted her to continually exist with her enthusiast regardless of his death.
Within this context, Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” might thus be seen as representing the effects of the dogmatic adherence to certain beliefs and customs. Within the text, the community utilized Ms. Grierson as a form of scapegoat which they utilized to stand both as a monolith to their customs and as a tomb for the unfavorable results of such customs.
The text might also be viewed as portraying the results of society, status, and family in the actions of people and how these actions are made it possible for by society in order to safeguard their self-image along with the structure of their beliefs. Faulkner, in line with Fetterley’s claim, thus supplied a picture of the monstrous as the text highlighted that the elements used for stressing the grotesque remain in themselves negative social beliefs and practices which simply reveals that the monstrous is in itself based on a real life symptom of the monstrous.
Dilworth, Thomas. “A Romance to Kill For: Homicidal Complicity in Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily'”. Research Studies in Short Fiction 36 (1999 ): 251-262. Print.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily”. A Rose for Emily. Np: Significant Publishing, 1983. Print.
Fetterley, Judith. “A Rose for ‘A Rose for Emily.'” The Norton Intro to Literature. Eds. Alison Booth and Kelly Mays. London: W.W. Norton & & Co., 2010. 616-621. Print.
Volpe, Edmond. A Reader’s Guide to William Faulkner: The Short Stories. Syracuse: Syracuse U. P., 2004. Print.