A Rose for Emily Analysis Essay: Is Emily Good, Bad, Evil, Insane?
“A Rose for Emily” describes a reclusive woman whose prominent lineage fascinates her insular southern town. While the townspeople pass judgment on her character, there are few objective conclusions for the reader to draw about her goodness. Emily’s past hides trauma and hereditary mental illness, and her true nature is unknowable to the outside observer who disregards her humanity.
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The narrative of “A Rose for Emily” abounds with morbid voyeurism. The reader’s understanding of Emily is filtered through the perspective of the unnamed narrator, who enthusiastically engages in the local gossip about her life. Sometimes the talk of the town is suspicious; when scandalized, they interfere in her affairs. Emily’s father cuts a menacing figure, turning away every suitor with horsewhip in hand, yet when Emily remains unmarried, it is rumored that she is mad like her great-aunt, who “[went] completely crazy” (Faulkner 51). The narrator then implies Emily’s culpability in her father’s death because she was not forthcoming when asked to present his corpse. Even when she endures the apparent abandonment of her fiance, the narrator only adopts paternalistic pity.
The result is that the full picture of Emily’s humanity is absent. At different points she is “an idol,” “a monument,” and compared visually to “a body…submerged in water” (Faulkner 47-51). It is reductive to draw conclusions with information that is incomplete at best and unreliable at worst. Despite the authoritative tone, “the narrator is an emotional participant in Miss Emily’s life and therefore cannot be objective” (Sullivan 160).
In closing, the unreliable narration in “A Rose for Emily” precludes the reader’s capacity to judge Emily as good or evil. She is undoubtedly a tragic figure.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Selected Short Stories, Random House, 2011, 47-59.
Sullivan, Ruth. “The Narrator in ‘A Rose for Emily.’” The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 1, no. 3, 1971, pp. 159–178. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30224976. Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.
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