A Rose for Emily is a story by William Faulkner. The events of the story occur in an imaginative city known as Jefferson (Faulkner W. 2003, pp 594). The story shows the death of Emily Grierson and how her funeral service was attended by almost the entire home. The story has a flashback of how her father died and how she was abandoned by a prospective spouse. The author makes it clear that Emily's father had driven away several suitors who wanted to marry her. Emily denies her father's death for some days before she offers the body to be buried. When the father dies, Emily becomes very sick. She buys some poison in the name of poisoning rats and the people in her town fear that she may use the poison to commit suicide.
She kills her suitor Homer and hides herself in the house till she dies at the age of seventy four years (Faulkner W. 2003, pp 620). After her death, her suitor's body is found in her house almost at the point of decay. The themes of death and change are common in the story. We are told about the death of Emily, her father, the town's mayor and Emily's suitor. The story shows that everything in the town has undergone a great change including Emily herself and it shows that the people in the town do not embrace change. Emily did not accept change when her father died and that is why she could tell the town's people that her father was still alive.
Literary analysis of the book A Rose for Emily can take various approaches. These include psychoanalytic, feminist and structuralist approach. In a feminist approach, A Rose for Emily shows how people in the society treat women due to their imaginations that women are weak and cannot do much for themselves (Saputri A. 2009). When Emily fails to get married, she loses hope in her life because she has the imagination that women need men to help them in life. The society also neglects her because at the age of thirty years, she is still single. In this society, Emily Grierson is a representation of the town's women who are able to do a little for themselves.
We learn that when Emily's father was a life, their house was always well maintained (Faulkner W. 2003, pp 599). After her father's death, the house had faded paint, unmaintained yard and it even reached a point of smelling. The women in the society are seen to be so weak such that when Emily's house has a bad smell, the men in the society have to treat it in order to end the odor. Emily's father had won the family a lot of respect from the society but when he died, the respect died with him. Feminist approach in the analysis of A Rose for Emily shows that women in the town of Jefferson, women cannot cater for their expenses and that is why Emily cannot pay taxes to the town when her father died.
The people of Jefferson can be said to value marriage and thus the unmarried people in the society are not respected (Saputri A. 2009). The community cannot understand why Emily has not been married at the age of thirty years. The author says that Emily lost her beauty with time just as her house and town continued to grow old. This shows that marriage is essential in to the people of this town. The town's people are more concerned with the marriage of women and that is why we realize that the women in the town were sympathizing with Emily because she had not been married. The men in the society are also presented as admirable while the women are unkind and that is why many of them come to Emily's house to get things to talk about (The Gale Group. 2002, pp 54).
In the story A Rose for Emily, Emily seems to have had a mental problem due to the unique conduct while in the society. Emily's psychological problems can be associated with her father who had turned down the many suitors who had wanted to marry her. Her failure to get a husband makes Emily to have a mental problem. Emily does various things that make readers to question her mental state. When men come collecting tax from her house, she tells them to discuss the matter with the former town's mayor who had passed away some years before. Her poor psychological state also makes her to poison Homer after learning that he was not ready to marry her (Sparknotes LLC. 2011). Her psychological problems are also emphasized when the story shows that Emily shared a bed with Homer's body till she died.
Emily shows a lot of strangeness in many of the things that she does. She shows unpredictable and peculiar conduct which makes her weird to the people in her town and to the readers too. Though Emily was found to have been sharing a bed with a dead body, the people in her town could not say she was mad because she had not have been diagnosed with a medical problem. Emily's mental problems can be said to be a response to the demands of the society which expected her to be married yet her father had prevented her from getting a husband. Emily tried to cope with various societal pressures that made her develop some signs of mental problems. Emily was brought up in a wealthy family and when her father died, he left no money behind (Faulkner W. 2003, pp 609). The change from a rich background to a poor family might have made Emily to lose mental focus in her life. In addition, Emily's rich background also shows that the town's people had much expectation from her.
The society required her to uphold certain customs such as the value for marriage in the society. Emily's father did not reinforce the society's traditions to her daughter and that is why he turned down many suitors who were ready to marry her because he felt that they were not worthy enough to marry his daughter. After the father's death, the reader starts to identify cases of Emily's mental disability. In the first place, Emily does not differentiate between the past and the present. When the father dies, Emily does not show grief for the loss of the parent and this leaves the reader doubting her sanity (Smith N. 2010). In addition, Emily denies her father's death and fails to offer the body for burial. This shows her inability to deal with change in time.
Emily's psychological failure emanates from her inability to cope with external challenges such as her failure to get married and the death of her father (Faulkner W. 2003, pp 612). The death of Emily's father makes her sick and this causes her continued wear out. This makes Emily to stop interacting with other people in the town and she keeps herself locked up in the house. The town people can also be said to show some symptoms of mental failure. This is because though they know that Emily has emotional and mental problems, they stay away from her instead of getting means to offer her some comfort. Even in a time when a bad smell comes from Emily's house, the town's people do not insist to know the cause of the foul smell. They claim that you cannot accuse a woman of having a bad smell without knowing that the smell does not come from Emily herself but from the house.
Another instance of mental problem is seen when we learn that Emily could not attend to her self-look. Emily had stopped caring for her grooming and hygiene and this made her to appear fat and old. Her change from a young beautiful lady to an old poor woman also causes psychotic traits to Emily. Irrationality and inappropriate characters are other evidences of Emily's mental decay because she is unable to interact with other people in the town in the right way (Smith N. 2010).
Emily could also be described as having mental problems because of the way she expressed herself in the pharmacy when she went to buy poison. She withheld her reasons for buying the poison from the pharmacist. Another psychoanalytic problem with Emily occurs when she buys items for her dead suitor. Years after the suitor was discovered in her house, an expensive picture covered with dust was found in the house and Emily had bought it for the late suitor.
Literary analysis of the story A Rose for Emily can also take a structuralist approach. The story has been told in five distinct parts. The parts show contrast both in narration and in content which show things that are contrary to our expectations. The contrast showed in the different parts of the story help us explaining the identity of Emily as the protagonist in the story. A Rose for Emily is a story that has a logical flow. In the first part of the story, the story introduces the reader to Emily's burial. During this burial, many have attended in order to get an opportunity to be inside Emily's house which they had not entered for many years.
According to Lawn O. 2003, the narrator tells us that Emily's house deteriorated with age and the once beautiful house was now old and unpresentable just as the town itself. In the next section, we are told that Emily stays with her father and this is when she losses her chance of marriage because her father turns down all the suitors. After her father's death, Emily does not have money and she cannot pay her taxes and this makes the town's mayor to give explanations about Emily's tax bills.
In the second part of the story, Emily's father dies and the society neglects her because she has failed to meet the society's expectations of getting married. Due to lose of her social value, Emily becomes dehumanized and withdraws her interaction with the people in the society (Faulkner W. 2003, pp 618). Emily stays in her house alone and she does not even have a friend. She is a victim of social neglect because she has not kept the traditions of the town's people. In another section of the story, Emily falls in love with Homer, a man from a lower financial status who is considered poor by the society despite his good physical appearance. Emily kills Homer and hides the corpse in her bedroom till she dies. When Homer disappears in Emily's house, the town people stay in suspense of whether two are married or are going to get married. The town's people are aware of the poison bought by Emily but they stay in suspense of what she wants to use the poison for.
According to Sharma R. 2011, pp 26, the chronological presentation of events in the story is essential because it drives us to climax of the story. The arrangement of the different events in the story also helps to create suspense in the story. The death of Emily is brought at the beginning of the story because it is not as important as her stay with a corpse in the house. The people in the town are detached from Emily and they only observe her actions for their own amusement. It is full of flashbacks that help to tell Emily's sad story.