Emily Grierson: The Life Of The Old South Essay, Research Paper
Emily Grierson: The Life of the ?Old South?
Much of the literature of our culture is engrossed with such literary techniques as symbolism, imagery, motifs, and personification. William Faulkner?s ?A Rose for Emily? is a unique example of the power personification has on the overall theme of a story. The use of personification by authors assists the writer by giving the reader more of an understanding of who a particular character is. This technique of presentation also gives a character a well-developed background, as seen in the character of Miss Emily Grierson. Emily Grierson, the leading character of Faulkner?s ?A Rose for Emily? can be seen as a personification of the Old South.
Faulkner?s portrayal of Emily as a symbol of the Old South is expressed through his references to the ?Negro? Emily has employed. One important aspect of how this man was important to the story is how the townspeople rarely see anyone but the ?old Negro? from the Grierson house. This man ?going in and out with a market basket? was ?the only sign of life about the place? (316). The fact that she employed the Negro to do this and other jobs displays how Emily is a true symbol of the Old South. Yet another instance where the Negro becomes a suggestion of Emily?s personification is seen in his station in the kitchen. The sarcastic statement by the nosy ladies of the town that ?a man-any man-could keep a kitchen properly,? is meant as a reminder that in this time period no men stepped foot in the kitchen (316). However, Miss Emily is not to be swayed by these obnoxious onlookers, just as the south is not influenced by the judgmental people of the North. As this generation of spectators comes to a close in the story, Faulkner utilizes the new generation of the town for similar purposes as the old.
With the rise of a new, young society concerned more with money, it is the Old South found in Emily Grierson that protects her from the townspeople’s curiosity and greed. A prime illustration of the greed of the new society is when the tax collectors visit Emily to collect her tariffs. However strong and determined these men are to deliver this message from the town, the strength of the Old South in Miss Emily gives her the ability to control the meeting. And when Emily has had enough of the conversation this symbolic strength, symbolic of the strong and able women of the south, leads her to say ?show these gentlemen out? before they have been given a chance to finish their conversation (316). Again the Old South protects Emily from this new society by not allowing them to speak crudely about her relationship to Homer Barron. Although some insist ?of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer? Emily holds her head high and never looks back as she pursues her Homer, eventually marrying him (317). While this community continues to feel pity and shock for Emily, there is evidence to their respect for her.
Although Faulkner attempts to portray Miss Emily as a tragic heroine, she is more revered by the townspeople than how it appears. Several instances of their display of respect exist in this short story. At the time of the new society when the collectors come, these men are originally worried about confronting her due to the decision of the older generation. While not stated it is clearly not their wish to disrespect the decision of earlier meetings and mar a tradition. A tradition of the Old South. Another instance where these townspeople are intimidated by the Old South of Emily is when they decide to take care of the offensive odor that exists around her house. They come to this decision after discussing how to confront Miss Emily with this problem only to be discouraged by Judge Stevens saying ?Dammit, sir, will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad? (316). This statement by the judge is an obvious illustration of exactly how much they respect Emily and her heritage. At the memorial service held for Miss Emily, we are witness to exactly how highly the community thinks of her. Here Emily is even referred to as a ?fallen monument? and ?a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town? (315). These statements are prime examples of exactly what others think about her life and existence. Prime examples of their respect for the fallen Old South.
The prestige of Emily Grierson, threatened by society, is given new life by her personification of the Old South. Through all the troubles of her life she remained the southern belle everybody believed her to be. Yet is it possible that the Old South needed her to survive just as much as Emily needed it to survive?
Faulkner, William. ?A Rose for Emily.? Literature and the Writing Process. Elizabeth
McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice, 1999. 315-20.