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Reader Response Criticism: William Faulkner’s a Rose for Emily Essay

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Reader Response Criticism: William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” “A Rose for Emily” was written in first person point of view. The narrator is never given a name, but it is apparent to the reader that the narrator is one of the townspeople. This is evident in the opening of the story when the narrator exposits that, “our whole town went to her funeral” (Faulkner, “Rose” 90). This story tells the tale of Miss Emily Grierson in psychological order, beginning with her funeral (as a flashback) and ending with the gruesome discovery of her lover’s remains in her bed (in present time).

The destinies of Miss Emily and her lover, Homer Barron, are alluded to by the author’s extensive use of foreshadowing. The author of this story, William Faulkner, was born in 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi (William Faulkner Contemporary par. 1). He was a member of “a once- wealthy family of former plantation owners” (William Faulkner par. 1). Although the town is never named in the story, “ A Rose for Emily” is one of his several stories set in the fictional town of Yoknapatawpha County, “which bears a close resemblance to the region in Northern Mississippi where Faulkner spent most of his life” (William Faulkner Contemporary par. 8) . This is important to know when applying a historical criticism to this body of work. Stanley 2 The setting of this story is important to establish so that the reader can understand why Miss Emily and Mr. Barron come to meet their ultimate fates. The story takes place in the Deep South and covers the years, approximately, during the middle of the 19th century and extending through the beginning of the 20th century.

The reader can infer this because “Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care…dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris…remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity” (Faulkner 90-91). The reader later learns that her father died when Miss Emily was around thirty years old and she dies approximately 30 years after him. The author refers to Emily as “Miss”, Sartoris is “Colonel,” and Blacks are referred to as “Negroes” and even “niggers. Applying a historical criticism to this story, this is during the time after the Civil War when a lot of former plantation and slave owners were essentially penniless, but because of their former stature they still considered themselves aristocrats. So, even though she is actually destitute, it is evident that Miss Emily has been taught by her father that she is of the noblest of blood and was kept away from the rest of the townspeople. Although he is not mentioned extensively in the story, Emily’s father has a profound and perhaps tragic effect on Emily.

She remains single and friendless because “the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they were” and “none of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such” (Faulkner 92). So when her father dies she has an especially hard time coping because he’s basically the only person that she has contact with. In fact, she was so upset by his death that it took her three days to finally allow the townsmen to remove her father’s dead body. This act also foreshadows the discovery of Homer’s body in her bed at the end of the story. Stanley 3 The narrator also tells of an incredible stench eminating from the home of Miss Emily.

The smell is so bad that “four men crossed Miss Emily’s lawn…like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork … [breaking] open the cellar door and [sprinkling] lime there, and in all the outbuildings” (Faulkner 92). Immediately after that anecdote is told, the reader is introduced to Homer Barron. This also foreshadows to Homer’s rotting corpse that is eventually discovered in her bed. Another instance of foreshadowing is when Miss Emily purchases the arsenic from the druggist and refuses to tell him what t is to be used for. “A Rose for Emily” incorporates two types of conflicts within it.

The attitude that the Griersons had towards the townspeople and vice- versa, shows man versus society. It is significant, and perhaps the key conflict, because Emily’s social class belief isolates her. This makes Homer’s desire to leave her unbearable and drives her to murder him. This in itself is an example of man verses man. The author orders the plot psychologically, to prepare the reader of what’s to come. Faulkner also used the order of the plot to help the reader to understand the reason behind the Emily’s actions that are uncovered at the end of the story.

Thereby, making it less scandalous and more of a shock. Stanley 4 Works Cited Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily. ” In The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 90-96. Print. “William Faulkner Biography. ” ENotes – Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. 06 Feb. 2010. Web. “William Faulkner. ” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resources from Gale. Gale. CCLA, Miami Dade Comm College. 5 Feb. 2010. Web.

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