Downfall Of An Archaic Society Essay, Research Paper
Downfall of an Archaic Society
Life is fickle and most people will be a victim of circumstance and the times. Some people choose not to let circumstance rule them and, as they say, time waits for no man. William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily” is about a ?fallen monument?, Miss Emily Grierson, who chooses to die with her outdated beliefs (87). Miss Emily lives during the Post-Civil War in a town, which is changing into the New South. Miss Emily did not have the individual confidence, or maybe self-esteem and self-worth, to believe that she could stand-alone and succeed at life especially in the face of changing times. Corruption is evident throughout the entire story, but barely clings as new mayors and aldermen snip at the loose strings. With her father’s death it becomes evident that Miss Emily’s desire for the past is the central factor in her life. No longer does she venture out but rather isolates herself from the town, which has become an “eyesore among eyesores” as it too attempts to maintain its old image (88). Standing as the sole representative of southern heritage, Miss Emily segregates herself, preserves her values and has a desire to be rescued by a lover to uphold her traditional beliefs in a changing society.
After the death of her father, Miss Emily segregates herself from the evolving world around her. In her youth Miss Emily was vibrant, being the daughter of a rich aristocrat she carried herself superior because she knew she was of a high social class. Emily carries her self with dignity and people give her that respect, based from fear of what Emily could do to them. Emily denies the fact that her father dies, and resists the attempts of the town?s people to proceed with the funeral. When Miss Emily holds on to the corpse of her father, she is in essence holding on to the corruption of the Old South, and death. Miss Emily lives for many years as a recluse, someone who has withdrawn from a community to live in seclusion. “No visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier” (93). Faulkner characterizes Miss Emily’s attempt to remove herself from society through her actions. The death of her father and the shattered relationship with her sweetheart contributed to her seclusion.
Miss Emily, like the crumbling town, is a victim of the traditional values she tries to preserve. At the time of her father’s death, the mayor, Colonel Sartoris, remitted her taxes. When the next generation of alderman comes, they attempt to send Miss Emily a tax notice. She sends the new mayor a note on a paper of “archaic shape, in a thin flowing calligraphy in faded ink” (89). The paper is an excellent description of Miss Emily, archaic, and fading. When the aldermen come to her house to collect her taxes she is seen as bloated, “like a body long submerged in motionless water…”(92). Not only is this symbolic of death, but the ?invisible watch?, which is hidden in her clothes, portrays her as being lost in time (91). The Negro man who waits on her is the only sign of life that the town?s people can see. And perhaps he is because despite the fact that Miss Emily is still physically alive, she is mentally inactive. Everything new that comes along is yet another blow to her fading existence. Miss Emily rejects everything that is new, even the free postal delivery.
Miss Emily might want seclusion, but her heart lingers for companionship. Homer is a Forman for a road construction company; Faulkner writes, “a foreman named Homer Barron, a Yankee a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face”(90). Emily wanted to be loved, and she was determined that Homer would be her true love to rescue her from fear, fear of being alone. Indeed Emily took a great liking to Homer, but Homer?s feelings about the relationship were different. When she was threatened with desertion and disgrace, she not only took refuge but her desire for love and companionship drove her to murder Homer Baron. In relation to keeping her father?s body, she keeps Homer Barron?s body so long because she feels that she has finally accomplished something in her life.
Throughout the story, Miss Emily isolates herself so she does not have to face the changing society, which surrounds her. Gradually she is driven into the shadows as the Old South transforms into the new. The new generation is overwhelming for Miss Emily who can do nothing but literally hold on to past by denying her fathers death and keeping his corpse. She is also forgotten by the new generation when they no longer go to her for china-painting lessons. Miss Emily doesn?t do the best with her opportunities. She has given up on the world and so she withdrew into her own little world. In the end, it is time, which brings down Miss Emily, and everything for which she stood for.
Faulkner, William : ?A Rose For Emily?. Literature Reading, Reacting, Writing.
4th Edition Ed. Eds. Laurie G. Kirszner, and Stephen R. Mandell. New York: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001. 87-94.