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onfliction Beyond Opression --Analysis of Emily’s Mentality in A Rose for Emily

发布时间: 2019-04-29所属分类: 教育类论文 阅读:142


I can still well remember the tremendous shock cast on me when I, for the first time, finished reading A Rose for Emily, the short story written by William Faulkner. The eagerness to dig deep into the tragedy welled up in me immediately yet I found it not an easy task due to its special pattern of narration. We can infer from the text that the narrator of the story acts as a looker-on at a distance from Emily, thus her psychology remains unknown to us. What is more, with using of flashbacks, the author didn’t tell the story in the original time order. Therefore, in this article, I would like to rearrange Emily’s experience in time order and analyze her mentality throughout the story, with the purpose of providing a reasonable interpretation of Emily’s deeds.



The whole story starts from Emily’s family background. She was born into a family of the antebellum Southern aristocracy, which later has fallen on hard times after the Civil War. However, Emily and her father, as the last two of the clan, continue to live as if in the past. Emily’s father, representing the southern traditional moral constraints and paternalism, was the only and absolute authority in the family. Growing up in such environment, Emily is fully aware of her identity as southern nobility, which is clear to us throughout the whole story. She hardly ever contacts with the civilians in the town and her father used to drive away all the young men who attempted to approach Emily, resulting in her being left alone at the age of about 30 when her father died. For three days after her father’s death, Emily cannot acknowledge the fact and refuses to give up his corpse to have it buried. Just as what is stated in the text, “...with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.”, Emily’s father has deprived her of possible partners, freedom and the ability of facing the outside world and the life all by herself, only leaving her with the pride and reservedness as a noble--as well as the house.

However, Emily appears more than that to me. In the story, “Emily’s father” never turns up as man alive, while his influence on Emily is profound and lasting throughout her life. I assume that her father’s mental exploitation over her has resulted in her being extremely controlling and occupying towards what she thinks that she possesses, which carries a foreshadowing of what is to follow later in the tragic story. In addition, it is obvious that Emily managed to develop an extraordinary mind of herself. That is to say, in spite of her father’s oppression upon her before, she does not lose herself totally. It is likely that during her illness after the burial of her father, her real self with an independent mind which used to be deep inside her somewhat revives. And it is so strong that nobody could change it.

Then, the man called Homer Barron, who has been believed that he would marry Emily, comes into Emily’s life, and soon she becomes friendly with him. The romantic relationship between a Southern noble lady and a Northern laborer certainly surprises some of the people in the town while the others feel glad to see her taking an interest, believing that they would get married and being supportive of the “possible” marriage. But Homer claims that he is not a marrying man--a bachelor. Later, two cousins of Emily’s comes to visit her and Homer leaves the town, during which Emily buys arsenic at the local drug store refusing to say why. After that, her cousins leaves and Homer comes back to the town within three days--a neighbor saw the Negro man admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening. And that is the last time people see him--or to be exact, the last time people see him as a living man--not “the profound and fleshless grin”.

Now we know the truth is that Emily kills Homer with arsenic and reserved the corpse on the bed in the room and, even, sleeps beside it for forty years. So what is going on in her mind these years, from the time when she falls in love with Homer, then kills him, and finally to her death?

As I have mentioned before, Emily’s father deprives her of the opportunities of contacting the outside world and communicating with people as well as her freedom in thoughts, which, on the contrary, shapes her into a person with particularly strong personal consciousness. On the one hand, she is always aware of her identity, holding onto her unique pride as a noble, “She carried her head high enough--even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness.”; On the other hand, she insists so hard on her love for Homer, completely ignoring the tradition she should stick to as a member of nobility. She believes herself as the absolute authority--that she is always right--and no one could doubt or challenge her. Don’t you find this somewhat familiar? And that is it, “that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die.” She is pursuing this principle since her father’s death til her own death. And her being extremely controlling and occupying over her possessions is also one of the expressions.

We know that in fact, Emily has no experience of keeping a normal and equal relationship with others before her father’s death, and all what she knows is the twisted relationship of oppression and exploitation like that between she and her father. Therefore I think it is reasonable to come up with the opinion that Emily, indeed, never has a correct concept of the relationship between two persons; actually the relationship in her cognition is more like dominating. She loves Homer, undoubtedly; however her tendency of possessing and controlling him is equally undeniable. Emily wants to marry Homer, but Homer doesn’t think so--It is Homer’s disagreement with Emily, which can be considered as a challenge towards the absolute authority in the relationship in Emily’s mind. And of course, Emily will not allow that to happen. She loves Homer, and she enjoys having Homer beside her--she enjoys possessing him. When Homer does not want to obey her, then she would make him do so. So she orders a man's toilet set with letter H.B. on each piece; she buys a complete outfit of man's clothing, including a nightshirt; she plans and holds the wedding by herself. We can imagine how she hugs Homer when he was dying of the poison with the newly bought nightshirt on his body. In this way, she can have Homer with her forever. It is nothing about the soul named Homer that she loves--as long as she possesses and conquer him, that would be heaven.

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