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An Inability to Let Go of The Past in A Rose for Emily Essay


William Faulkner A Rose for Emily: A Tragedy for an Noblewoman

William Faulkner starts his short story A Rose for Emily at the scene of his main characters funeral. From that stage, the story is unveiled in a non-chronological order through the eyes of apparently a town resident. As the story progresses with Faulkner artistic writing techniques, it reveals to the readers the tragedy of an aristocracy lady, who lives in the past and is unable to let go of it. That point is reflected through Miss Emilys persistence of keeping a hold on all her old-styled belongings, and her inability of admitting changes; with its climax is the murdering of Homer.

Like in many others short stories, Faulkner sets place for his story in an imaginary county named Yoknapatawpha. In the town of Jefferson, the Grierson house was located in one of the most prominent and prestigious neighborhoods. The "big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and scrolled balconies in the heavenly lightsome style of the seventies" (Faulkner 29) is luxurious, impressive and is not a common residence among all the town people. The house has long been a symbol of nobility for the Grierson family, but now ironically becomes one of the significant evidences of its owners inability of letting go the past. With times changed and new generations replaced the old ones and the whole town moved on towards the future. Cotton gin and auto garages replace old home, but the Grierson house was the only one persistently staying put. The house owner, Miss Emily, even refused a mailbox attached to her door when the whole town got free postal delivery, she would not listen to them (35).

Miss Emilys inability of letting go the past also is also expressed through her inability of admitting changes around. That specifically was the denial of the passage of time. As the story unveils, Miss Emily is gradually portrayed as a person who lives completely in the pass. The literacy work is artistic at the point that not just Miss Emily was the only person denies the passage of time, but Faulkner in his exceptional writing techniques seems to do the same. That could be perceived as a way the author expresses his sympathetic to tragedy of an aristocracy lady, who have once been looked upon by the whole town as an idol. In his criticism, Donal Akers remarks on Faulkners purposely non-chronological order of the story:

One can more confidently argue that A Rose for Emily is a meditation on the nature of time. Although the story is only a few pages long, it covers approximately three quarters of a century. Faulkner cleverly constructed the story to show the elusive nature of time and memory Here, Faulkner profoundly and poetically comments on the human need to deny the passage of time and the astounding capacity of the human mind to use memory in that ultimately futile denial. Emily, of course, has other methods of denying time.

Akers is reasonable when saying that Miss Emily has her own methods of denying time. She tells the new Board of Alderman that Colonel Sartoris has explained to her that she had no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris, however, had been death for at least ten years. Miss Emily resistance to the passage of time is effectively symbolized through two different figures. These are her own figure behind one of the downstairs windows (33), watching the world moving, and the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain (34). Those figures represent her own setting for the time of her world. To Emily, things are not moving or changing at all, they all just stay still because she, with the ticking watch, is sitting there and setting up the time and pace for her own world.

The story reaches its climax with the discovery of Homers death. Unwilling to admit that Homer was about to leave her world, she poisons him so that she could keep him by her side forever. Such horror action is again an expression of her inability of admitting changes. The storys climax ironically also reveals Miss Emilys climax of tragedy. To her, death, just like the passage of time, does not exist. This is demonstrated earlier in the story by her action of keeping the decaying body of her father, denying his burial. In his criticism about atmosphere and theme in A Rose for Emily, Ray West comments:

She acted as though death did not exist, as though she could retain her unfaithful lover by poisoning him and holding his physical self prisoner in a world which had all of the appearances of reality except that most necessary of all things life.

William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily is a short story that utilizes many of the creative tools necessary for an exceptional literary work. The story unveils non-chronologically introducing a woman, who isolates herself and lives in the past. Her inability of letting go the past is expressed via her persistence of keeping a hold on all her old-styled belongings. It is also reflected through her denial to the passage of time and the existence of death.

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