A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner is a unique piece of literature. It has a plot
which seems somewhat bland, and it is not particularly exciting. However, the ending is
quite suprising, and for me it made the story worth reading. I think there are some
interesting aspects of this story if you look at it from a feminist point of view. The
feminist movement has attempted to elevate the status of the woman to a level equal with
men. Feminists have fought for the right of women to be free from the old social
restraints which have been in place for so long. A feminist believes a woman should be
strong and independent. In some ways the main character, Emily, is this kind of woman,
but for the most part she is portrayed as weak and fragile.
Throughout the story, Emily is depicted as a weak and dependent woman because
of the way that she is treated by the town. When her father died and she had no man to
care for her, the town absolved her tax duties. The people of the town attempted to
accomodate her needs by offering their help and sympathy. The townspeople also tried to
be considerate of her eccentricities. They extended her courtesies because she was a lady
with no one save her servant. This caretaking of Emily by the town shows the opinion of
women during that time period. Without a man, Emily was considered somewhat helpless.
Everyone felt as if they needed to help her.
Another way that Emily represents females as dependent and childlike is her
reluctance to admit her father’s death. When he dies, she refuses to let anyone remove his
body from their house. It’s as if she feels she needs his comforting and protection.
Without a man, she is lost. In the end of the story this situation comes up again. The man
who Emily had a relationship with is found dead and decayed in an upstairs bedroom after
her death. There is evidence that she would lay in the bed with the men after his death.
This is another way that Emily is portrayed as needy and weak. She feels she needs a man
so badly that she must keep her lover even after his death. I think most feminists would
read this theme into A Rose for Emily.
Perhaps the only way Emily was portrayed as strong or independent is in her
lifestyle. She lives alone with only a servant to give her any service. She does what she
wants without regard to the concerns of the people around her. In this way, she shows
some evidence of the qualities of independence and self-reliance that feminists believe
women should exhibit.
This was a strange and almost disturbing story, but I think it speaks to certain
social issues. Mainly the role and the demeanor of women during the early twentieth
century. It is a social commentary in the guise of a short story.
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