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“A rose for Emily” is a short story by American author well known as William Faulkner. These were some of his first stories published in a national magazine in 1930. In this story, William Faulkner offers a story of an unconventional spinster. Miss Emily is the spinster in this case. She is a spinster because of her father’s insistence that there was no young man who was gracious enough for her. This then makes Emily lead a life of isolation. In addition, William Faulkner employs themes such as isolation, time, compassion and forgiveness, versions of reality, vision of America, and the theme of memory and the past. The paramount theme is isolation that indicates how Emily’s restriction by her father led to the demise of Miss Emily’s only love, Homer. This paper, therefore, provides a thematic analysis of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”.
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Theme of Isolation
Undoubtedly, “A Rose for Emily” is a story that is full of the extremes of isolation, both bodily and emotional. Faulkner uses stylistic devises as an indication on how human beings become isolated by their families, their traditional practices, their community, by law and the past, and by their own actions and desires. In effect, Faulkner tells a story that takes a stand in opposition to such isolation and against the characters isolating others. After reading this story, one gets the urge to take a fastidious stroll in the county. “Go! Breathe the air; feel the sunshine; visit a friend,” as Faulkner puts it. Faulkner informs the reader twice that Miss Emily is comparable to an idol. This suggests that since Miss Emily was brought up with the perception that she is above others by her father and other perceived her that way, she doesn't mingle with other people. The father isolated Miss Emily from others by saying, “there is no man who can take proper care of Miss Emily.” She also isolated herself by deciding to reside in a town where she couldn’t fit.
Theme of Compassion and Forgiveness
Another major theme in Faulkner’s story is compassion and forgiveness. On the onset, it might not be noticeable in this story because the story looks downright cruel, but rather through the characters’ wholly unsympathetic nature and the gross plot. After seeing the magnitude of the misfortune, and its impact on multiple generations, we realize that the story is a call for apprehension. Seemingly, the story argues that forgiveness, empathy and being considerate can only be realized through understanding both the past and present facts. Although, Faulkner appeared mercilessly and painfully blunt, we can feel the spirit of empathy in the story. Faulkner’s indication to the reader that Miss Emily is insane, he gives us space to sympathize with her and forgive her for killing her lover, Homer. The town people, on the other hand, decline to exonerate Miss Emily for her crime.
Theme of Versions of Reality
Faulkner introduces people with skewed versions of reality in “A Rose for Emily”. In this context, he is asking readers not to wear their “rose-colored” glasses and to take a glance at the reality in the face. In this story, we confront the reality of America, and the reality of the main character’s absolute seclusion. Faulkner clearly affirms that: indeed it is difficult to see both the past and the present through depicting memory as imperfect and prejudiced. This difficulty is the cause of a major character’s insanity. Fortunately, we find instances of sympathy and absolution in the novel. By reading Faulkner’s story, the readers get to understand how the idealistic potentials placed on southern women in the past were disadvantageous. This story shows the reader how momentous change is different from the time of Miss Emily and how dissimilar our reality is from that of characters in Falkner’s story.
Theme of Visions of America
Many of the characters in this story look at America through rose-colored glasses, while Faulkner does not. The American South depicted by the novel is in unfavorable state following the end of slavery. The novel addresses the stubborn denial of some southerners that the America they believed in, which was the center of slavery, was buried in the past. The composition of the story shows the time of about seventy four years earlier, sometime just before the Civil War. However, the story’s focus is from about 1894 to 1935. Since the dates are not in order, it leaves us without option but to untangle the present vision of America from America's pat vision. In the first section when we look at the second paragraph of the story, Faulkner gives us all the clues to help us in determining what the story is saying with reference to America. Faulkner uses the story to show the complex nature for southern people to address the issues present in the new America.
Theme of Memory and the Past
According to Gavin Stevens, one of William Faulkner’s characters notably says, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”. Faulkner’s story evidently talks about the past being talked about by Gavin Steven. Spanning roughly 74 years, “A Rose for Emily” spins backwards and forwards in time like memory by indicating how a southern town faces division amid the present and the past. Through Post-Civil War and Pre-Civil Rights, Faulkner’s story shows us an American South in limbo. The American South’s determination to try desperately through each generation’s efforts to come into terms with its evils by recognizing the worthiness of the past is clear in the story. Miss Emily tries to free herself from the burden of isolation from her father’s past control by beginning to date Homer Barron. She is also trying to disregard the tradition of being a proper lady as her father claims. The use of foreshadow prepares the reader and creates a thematic unity within the story. The structure of the story imitates the manner in which memories pass on from one generation to other.
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is a tragic tale in which author employs numerous themes to deliver the message to the reader. He artistically employs flashbacks, symbolism, allegory and shifts, from time to time in order to harness certain themes. It is one of the tales that have properly used most of the fundamental ingredients of a good story. This story, therefore, serves as a toll for developing the horror and explicating the narrative that helps the reader to understand the whole story. The use of foreshadow prepares the reader and also creates structural and thematic unity within William Faulkner’s southern gothic literature. According to thematic analysis above, it is clear that in “A Rose for Emily”, there are varied arguments; isolation is likely to lead to insanity and descriptions of the times are fundamental in characterization of the varied states of mind as the townspeople attempt to evaluate Emily. This is evident when the father forces his daughter to live in isolation on grounds that there is no young man who can take proper care of her. Eventually we realize that, through her father’s insistence, she lost her sanity after the loneliness became unbearable and decided to poison Homer.