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 commits along with the members of her neighborhood. Told from a very first person’s viewpoint, the text details the development and death of a murderer whose presence society allowed in order to preserve their beliefs and practices in their neighborhood.
Faulkner’s text thereby supplies a various structure for understanding the monstrous as it emphasizes the social conditions that allows a specific characterization of the grotesque. As Fetterley claims, “Faulkner is not thinking about invoking the type of monstrous which is the consequence of reversing the clichés of sexism for the sake of an inexpensive thrill … Rather, Faulkner conjures up the monstrous in order to brighten and specify the true nature of the conventions on which it depends” (616 ).
In line with this, the following discussion elucidates on Faulkner’s lighting of the conventions that enables sexism in “A Rose for Emily.” The discussion is based on the argument that by enabling the text to focus on the life and actions of a female murderer, Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” had the ability to represent the unfavorable results of sexism in society.
The text starts by stating the occasions that occurred throughout the death of Emily Grierson. It states, “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our entire town went to her funeral: the guys through a sort of respectful love for a fallen monument, the females mostly out of curiosity to see the within her home, which no one conserve an old manservant– a combined gardener and cook– had seen in at least 10 years” (Faulkner 1).
It is intriguing to note how from the very start of the text, Ms. Grierson is depicted as a sign of the town itself. In the beginning she is referred to as “a fallen monument” which is later on followed by a description of her as “a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of genetic commitment upon the town” (Faulkner 3). One might keep in mind that this is an outcome of Ms. Grierson’s position in their society.
She was introduced by the narrator as the child of one of the most prominent members of their neighborhood. As an elite member of the neighborhood, her dad was depicted as an authoritarian who limited his child’s experiences in the domestic sphere. One must presume that the same thing was done to Emily’s mother since within the text itself there is no mention whatsoever of Ms. Grier’s mother.
The only relations that were pointed out are her 2 cousins and her Negro servant whose presence was as hazy as hers. This description of her youth in addition to her instant home environment presents us with a view of the mechanics in their neighborhood.
As a part of a highly patriarchal community where relations are determined by the rank of the members within the neighborhood, Ms. Grier was depicted as a private secured from the world by her family. Nevertheless, at the later part of the text, one sees that it may be the other way around.
Keep in mind, for example, that none of the events which took place in the text were ever recounted through Ms. Grierson’s personal accounts. The narrator led the reader to believe that the reason for this may be traced to the elitist qualities of Ms. Grierson and her household. However, it is very important to keep in mind that Ms. Grierson herself chose to safeguard herself from the society in which she resided in.
In the latter part of her life, they described her as a “dear, unavoidable, resistant, tranquil, and perverse” figure who “like the carven torso of an idol in a specific niche … passed from one generation to generation” (Faulkner 7).
Her rejection to interact with any member of the neighborhood may be viewed as her rejection 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 ensure the continuation 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 lead character 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 was able to produce “the community as a living entity, a character with a past, a personality, a memory, and feelings by methods of the ubiquitous storyteller who spans the a number of generations of Emily’s lifetime” (99 ).
The community as a storyteller made it possible for the neighborhood’s implicit validation of its actions within the text as it argues that their actions are an outcome of the development of their society’s cultural worths, attitudes, and behavior. Because sense, the storyteller is implicitly telling the reader that they might not be held liable for Ms. Grierson’s murder of her lover, Mr. Barron.
Real enough, one might argue that the community itself did not force Ms. Grierson to devote such an act nevertheless it may also be argued that the community’s initial negotiations with Ms. Grierson supplied her with an intention for dedicating the act. By denunciating her relationship with her fan and by enabling her to take part in doubtful actions (e.g. acquiring arsenic without offering a valid reason for such an act), they implicitly permitted her to murder her lover.
As was stated in the later part of the text, the members of the community did not question Ms. Grierson relating to the status of Mr. Barron as he failed to reveal any sign of life within their community and even within the house itself. Dilworth mentions this succinctly as he argues:
The neighborhood excused the killing by not publicly acknowledging it and by not examining in order to prosecute the killer, whom they should have understood was Emily. Legally, 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 devices to murder “before the fact.” (252 )
For the neighborhood, Ms. Grierson therefore stood both as a symbol of the criminal offense that they have actually devoted along with the symbol of the strength of their beliefs. Ms. Grierson’s character along with her life may be seen as portraying the impacts of a society that prohibits the existence of an individual with self-governing beliefs.
Hence, one is presented with the an understanding of Ms. Grierson who is both protecting herself from society as well as living within the reality which her society enabled her to think. In the end of her life, by denying the company of other people, she allowed herself to be misguided in the reality that she picked to embrace. In this reality, her neighborhood enabled her to constantly exist with her enthusiast in spite of his death.
Within this context, Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” might therefore be seen as representing the results of the dogmatic adherence to specific beliefs and customs. Within the text, the neighborhood utilized Ms. Grierson as a form of scapegoat which they used to stand both as a monument to their customs and as a tomb for the negative impacts of such customs.
The text might likewise be viewed as representing the results of society, status, and household in the actions of people and how these actions are made it possible for by society in order to protect their self-image as well as the foundation of their beliefs. Faulkner, in line with Fetterley’s claim, thereby offered a picture of the grotesque as the text stressed that the elements utilized for stressing the grotesque remain in themselves unfavorable social beliefs and practices which merely shows that the grotesque is in itself based upon a reality manifestation of the grotesque.
Dilworth, Thomas. “A Romance to Kill For: Bloodthirsty 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: Remarkable Publishing, 1983. Print.
Fetterley, Judith. “A Rose for ‘A Rose for Emily.'” The Norton Intro to Literature. Eds. Alison Cubicle 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.