Sexism, Racism, And Class In “A Rose For Emily” Essay, Research Paper
“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner is a story about the life of an old woman. The narrator reveals the main events of her life, such as the death of her father, the disappearance of her lover, and the events surrounding her death, and the thoughts of the townspeople on Emily and her life as heard from the gossipy people of the town. One theme – or central idea – of the story is how narrow-minded attitudes can cause others to withdraw. Emily is one of the people who withdraw because of narrow-mindedness. The attitudes regarding sexism, racism, and class depicted in “A Rose for Emily” are narrow-minded.
First, the attitude of sexism is narrow-minded. When Colonel Sartoris remitted Emily’s taxes, he made up a story about the town owing Emily’s father because she would not accept charity. The narrator says the story is one that only a woman could believe. That attitude is small-minded and sexist because men are capable of believing anything women can. Later, a bad smell develops around Emily’s house and the women assume it is from an unkept kitchen. Emily’s manservant does the cooking and the women say, “Just as if a man – any man – could keep a kitchen properly” (83). A more open-minded perspective shows that men can keep a kitchen just as well as women. When Emily and Homer are courting the women think something should be done because they are setting a bad example for the young people. The men do not want to interfere. The women interfere anyway and they convince the Baptist minister to talk to Emily. This attitude is sexist because some men may have wanted to interfere as much as the women and some women may have wanted to leave Emily alone. These attitudes cause Emily to withdraw from society.
Second, the attitude of racism is narrow-minded. Colonel Sartoris, the same man that remitted Emily’s taxes, “fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron” (81). The edict only applies to Negro women, not white women. The idea that Negro women are lower than white women is clearly bigoted. Then, throughout the entire story Tobe is referred to simply as the Negro. The only person that ever calls him by his name is Emily. The implication is that Negroes lack individuality. This attitude is very narrow-minded. When Emily goes to the drug store to buy poison, the Negro delivery boy brings it out to her. The fact that nothing more is said about the boy except that he is Negro is another example of the idea Negroes lack individuality and are unimportant. These attitudes cause Tobe and other Negroes to withdraw somewhat.
Lastly, the attitudes regarding class are narrow-minded. When Emily and Homer begin to court, the women of the town are sure nothing will materialize from it because Homer is a Northerner. Broadminded individuals can see that being Northern does not make him any less attractive to Emily. Another reason the women do not think anything will happen with Emily and Homer is he is a day laborer. He is not of the same social and economic standing Emily was born into. Clearly his occupation does not lessen his appeal to Emily, but the women are at first too narrow-minded to realize it. Emily and Homer began courting shortly after the death of Emily’s father, which caused the people to think grief was part of the reason she would see Homer. The older people felt “that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige” [the obligation of those of high birth or rank to behave in an honorable fashion] and they would not stay together long (84). The idea that Emily could not possibly be seriously interested in a man of a lower class is completely narrow-minded. This attitude causes Emily to withdraw even farther from normal society.
Narrow-mindedness is a problem people still deal with today. Though, many of the examples in “A Rose for Emily” have been overcome, some are still being dealt with on a daily basis. Parents do not want their daughters to marry beneath them. Negroes are still fighting for their equality and individuality. Women are still struggling to be seen as more than merely objects to be ruled. Also, homosexuals are fighting for their right to choose without being judged by others, and charismatics are trying to prove that alternative, more open and lively ways of worship are acceptable. These attitudes sometimes cause people to withdraw from society in order to keep from being judged. In “A Rose for Emily, Faulkner portrays Emily as a withdrawn person because of narrow-mindedness.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Compact 4th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers, 2000. 81 – 88.