What can you do with a person who is stubborn to a fault? In “A Rose for Emily,” author William Faulkner shows that the townspeople come to pity Miss Emily, the stubborn, unchanging main character in this classic short story. Miss Emily, a spinster whose father abjured every possible suitor, is an individual who cannot changer her prideful stubbornness.
Faulkner uses several different methods to show this, such as descriptions of Miss Emily’s house, changes in the town that occur over time while Miss Emily lives there, and her relationships with close people, such as her father and Homer, to give the reader a better understanding of Miss Emily’s lack of ability to change. One of the simplest ways to see the way Faulkner characterized Miss Emily is to compare her with the description of her house. Miss Emily’s house is described as “big and squarish…. lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above… [the town]–an eyesore among eyesores.
The adjectives “big” and “squarish” serve to communicate a picture of Miss Emily. Several paragraphs into the story, when Miss Emily is visited by the townsmen who want to collect taxes on her house, she is described as a fat (“big), short (“squarish”) woman. Her house is stubborn in that it stays standing in the midst of change around it, never changing itself, while Miss Emily is stubborn in other ways, such as refusing to discuss the taxes issue with the leaders of the town. She repeatedly says to them, “See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson. ” Both Miss Emily and her house are old-fashioned.
Her house is described as “coquettish,” which is an old-fashioned word used to describe an old-fashioned house, and not much used in modern language. It is also decaying. Miss Emily shows herself to be old-fashioned in her way of dressing–black dress– and in the use of everyday items such as her stationary, which is described as “archaic. ” Miss Emily’s decay is not only shown in the change her hair color over the years, but also in the posture and hair color changes in that of her servant, the only “part” of Miss Emily that is seen by the towns-people for forty years.
Both the house and Miss Emily become an “eyesore among eyesores”; the house becomes so because of it’s apparent disrepair and un-modernized look. Miss Emily becomes an eyesore because she is unwilling to change. Miss Emily slowly becomes “Poor Miss Emily” to the townspeople as they realize that she will stay the same in the midst of their change. When the town adds a Post Office and everyone gets free mail delivery, Miss Emily is the only person who refuses a mailbox. As the neighborhood is torn down to make way for garages, cotton gins, and gas stations, Miss Emily’s house looms above the modernization, which Miss Emily refuses to embrace.
She and her house stay the same as the leadership of the town changes–young men become the new leaders. As the individuals forget who Miss Emily is, she becomes more pitiful to them. Her refusal to do any different than she always has alienates her from the generation of leaders and her relationship with them. Miss Emily did, however, have close relationships that affected her–that of her father and of Homer, whom we assume to be the first beau Miss Emily would have. Miss Emily’s relationship with her father is not described lengthily.
He is described as “a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to [Emily] and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. ” This seems to suggest that her father was a rough, loud-spoken, harsh man, and as such, had harsh rules. Though there is no proof, the towns-people come to believe that Miss Emily’s supposed refusal of all her suitors is false. They begin to believe that her father was the one who turned all potential marriage partners down. He was a controlling man. When he died, Miss Emily seemed to reverse.
She could not let him go. He lay dead in the house for three days before Miss Emily let officials take him to be buried. She might have been afraid to be alone. When Homer entered her life, he was a breath of fresh air. He is described as being the center of any laughing crowd. He was popular with people and good natured. The townspeople were elated to see Miss Emily with a beau, even if they did not believe that an individual as proper as Miss Emily’s family was would marry Homer, a lowly street worker. The townspeople were not very surprised when Home disappeared.
Later, the reader finds out that Miss Emily poisoned Homer, and laid him on a bed in the upstairs room. The townspeople, who find strands of her hair on the pillow beside his body, speculate that she, at times, lay next to his decaying body. Miss Emily’s father’s model to Miss Emily was of a stubborn person, unwilling to let change come to himself or his daughter. Therefore, when Homer presumably wanted to leave, she did not want him to go. In her stubbornness, she preferred to have Homer dead and with her, than alive and gone away from her. She was stuck where she was with no way to move on from her father’s influence.
Miss Emily was completely soldered in her headstrong ways. There was no room for variation in what she did. Whatever the reasons for her immovability, Miss Emily died with what she wanted: the man she chose. Faulkner’s tale is a sad one, but poetic in nature. His vivid descriptions of Miss Emily and her house, the changes that happen in the town around her, and her relationships with people she loved are easily pictured in the mind as one reads; and they show Miss Emily’s unshakeable, unchangeable character, that she was “dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse. “
Courtney from Study Moose
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