Literary Criticism A Rose for Emily

A  Rose for Emily is one of the most analyzed and criticized short stories. William Falkner, the author of the story, is definitely an outstanding American authors of the twentieth century. Faulkner’s works are famous for universal themes and twisted plot. His characters are complex and interesting to the audience. A Rose for Emily is one of his most popular short stories. Critics put much effort analyzing this story and their opinion help to uncover new levels of meaning in the story.

Many critics state that A Rose for Emily is a story, which may be interpreted on many levels. Different approaches to interpretation show different aspects and shades of meaning. As states Frank Little in his Notes on Mississippi:  “A Rose for Emily” has been read variously as a Gothic horror tale, a study in abnormal psychology, an allegory of the relations between North and South, a meditation on the nature of time, and a tragedy with Emily as a sort of tragic heroine” (Little, 119). Such a multi-dimensional nature of the story gives critics much space for interpretation. Little also notes that A Rose for Emily may be attributed to the Southern gothic style. This unique style combines the elements of gothic genre with Southern characters. This unique combination creates original subgenre where classical gothic meets historical and social peculiarities of the South. Little also notes that Falkner chose marginal themes of the Southern life. His themes include controversial and complex topics, such as murder, incest, and suicide.

Different critics find different reasons of such great popularity of this short story. For example, Alfred Kazin points out that emotional appeal and the story of strong but perverted love have a very strong impression on the readers. “A Rose for Emily” is the story of the old maid who fell in love with a northerner, but resisted being jilted once too often. And only after her death, “When the curious towns people were able to enter her house at last, did they discover that she had kept her dead lover in the bed where she had killed him after their last embrace” (Kazin 162).  Emily can not fulfill her longing for love in her everyday life and she used terrible way to be together with her beloved man. Kazin states that it is the story of love which made the story so popular among ordinary readers. “In her bedroom, Emily and the dead Homer have remained together as though not even death could separate them”(Kazin, 162).  Kazin believes that the readers become fascinated by Emily’s story same like the citizens of her small town. The  story of terrible murder and strange love become really catching for people. As states Kazin, “it becomes so appalling that no one can forget” (Kazin 162). The success of Falkner story may be explained by good psychological plot of the story. As notes Kazin, the author makes a mixture of murder and love, and such combination have many chances to gain public interest and the popularity of the story proves this idea. Kazin points out that Falkner possesses a good knowledge of human emotions and this emotional appeal is one of characteristic features of all his works. “Stories that show all too clearly how airily Faulkner can reproduce the manipulation of the reader’s emotions is the real aim of the commercial short story” (Kazin 162).

Other critics also find the elements of gothic genre in this short story. For example, Lewis believes that atmosphere of horror and death are main themes of the story. As he states: “It is the monstrousness of this view which creates the final atmosphere of horror, and the scene is intensified by the portrayal of the unchanged objects which have surrounded Homer in life.” (Lewis 157). Elements of gothic genre bring special coloring to the story. The story combines the elements of horror stories, such as setting and some parts of the plot, with deep psychological research and illumination of general themes, such as love and death. Lewis notes that this combination becomes one of the main reasons of the success of the story: “The total story says what has been said in so much successful literature. Man’s plight is tragic, but that there is heroism in an attempt to rise above it”(Lewis 157).  This critic believes that elements of romanticism is another reason of the success of the story. The main characters of the story are outstanding personalities. Emily, her beloved man, and even her father differ from ordinary people. They live in their own worlds and they are ready to sacrifice anything for the sake of their ideas. These outstanding characters, who are ready to confront other people, bring elements of romanticism to the story. Love story, which makes the central line of the story, also adds romantic features according to Lewis. This way Falkner managed to create a mixture of love and horror, which is a universal combination which attracts public attention during the entire history of mankind.

James M. Mellard also shares opinion that A Rose for Emily can be attributed to gothic literature. As he himself writes in The Falkner Journal:  “A Rose for Emily” is a “retrospective Gothic” (Mellard 97). He uses the term “retrospective” to underline that gothic genre dominates the story but it is discovered only by the end of the story when the corpse of Baron is discovered. The end of the story makes it possible to attribute it to gothic genre according to the Mellard. This critic also notes that tone of the narration is strange and whimsical.

This also makes it possible to place it to category of Gothic literature. The story does not possess linear structure. The parts of the story not always follow in linear consequences. The readers who are not familiar with the story may have difficulties putting it in logical order.

Multiple flashbacks add the element of uncertainty to the narration. Mellard notes that careful reading may help to define Gothic elements in the very beginning of the story. The description Emily, the protagonist of the story, gives hints to the genre of the story. She is described like strange and whimsical woman. The author describes her like  “”¦bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue” (Faulkner).  Other elements of the story, such as the description of Emily’s relations with her father also may help the readers to define the genre of the story.

Each element of the story discovers the depths of meaning. Different critics use different approaches and stress out different peculiarities of the story. Their works help to discover many meanings of the famous short story.

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