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A Rose for a Funeral
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     Faulkner's story A ROSE FOR EMILY testifies to the compound horrors of society. In daylight, people held Emily on a high pedestal because of her wealth, but gossipped about her in hushed voices behind closed doors. Her money-driven authority allowed her to purchase arsenic without an explanation and she also exempted herself from taxes. In the town there was an established hierarchy where people "respected" Miss Emily because of her possessions and dismissed her strange behavior along with her pleas for love. Questions of sexuality and sexual orientation are brought up at points where they are almost inappropriate or unimportant to the movement of things, and all in all there is a sure sense of deception and mischief running through the plot- all due to the attitude of the society surrounding the main characters of this piece.

     As gossip and irrational judgment go, this work of literature brings the motherlode. The narrator begins his descriptions of Miss Emily's current state with an overly detailed account of just how hideous the woman appeared in the first chapter, using phrases such as "...a small, fat woman in black...leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head...small and spare...what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her...bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water....pallid hue. Her eyes...lost in the fatty ridges of her face...a lump of dough...(76)." This may just seem like an adjectival sum of the woman's physical decline, but one must keep in mind that the narrator symbolizes the conglomerate voice of society. This judgment on Miss Emily's appearance does seem rather fitting to the town's spiteful opinion and slight fascination with her affairs.

     Because of Faulkner's format of the narrator, as a reader of this story, all we see and hear are hearsay and rumors, including those related to Emily's monetary wealth when compared to the rest. She had spent her lift in a lovely Victorian house that seemed to appear lofty to its surroundings of a modernizing and changing southern town. She had a negro servant to tend to her every need, and he was seen traveling to and from the house constantly for groceries and supplies for his Mistress. The woman was not ever required for the longest time to pay the same taxes everyone else had to, let alone any at all! Even the flash of money in the drug store bought her a supply of arsenic with no questions asked, which included defying the law that stated she must explain what her intended use of the substance was. In this quaint Southern town, money was more important than the law, and one woman's money was more important than everyone else's money.

     Emily was raised by a stern father who assured her his upbringing of her would teach her to be a strong, sophisticated woman who would make a good wife and mother. Yet, the man would not allow his daughter to be courted or to take an interest in any male figure other than himself. Even from a young age, Emily became totally devoted to one man who showed characteristics of being controlling and even somewhat delusional, which might have lead to many of her problems later in life and in the story.

     However, has Emily told any of us this? Has she herself confessed to the local psychiatrist that she was raised in such a way that she could develop these apparently insane tendencies? No...we believe these things about her father because of what the rest of the town has seen of him, or seen of her as a "result" of him. The father figure is mentioned several times in the story- at first when the mayor insists that Emily not pay taxes, using the lie that her father had loaned money to the town, and continuously with the mentions of his relationship with Emily. "After her father's death she went out very little"..."When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her"...and although her father's death is not always necessarily important to the surrounding text, it is always used as a time piece to explain her life as if it revolved entirely around this day. The truth is, that even through all of the descriptions and mentionings of Emily's father, no one really knew for certain what had gone on between them. What if Emily's lack of gentleman callers was due to something else entirely? Perhaps a secret that existed only between Emily and her father was in line.

     Alas, one line in the entire story stands out and shocks readers the very most: "Homer himself had remarked- he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club- that he was no a marrying type (79)." This must be the most highly misinterpreted line in the entire piece! When looking at this statement grammatically, one might notice that the basic idea of this sentense, without the syntax arrangmenet of words, is merely this: Homer himself had remarked that he was not a marrying type. The fact that he liked men, especially when considering the fact that this story was written in the 1930's, doesn't seem to necessarily mean he was a homosexual. As a non-marrying ype, perhaps Homer just preferred the company of men in the sense that he liked to drink and be social with the younger, less uptight men of the town, rather than suffer the demands of a woman. Once again, because of the societal flair of the rest of the story, the reader is immediately drawn into the excitement of gossip and assumes the worst- that Homer Barron was gay.

     When taking a look at some of the social effects that cannot help but touch the reader, it is good to keep in mind that time changes many things, but not everything. The time period this story takes place in, as well as the time it was written, indicate that the themes of homosexuality, relationships, gossip, and social standing might have altered themselves from the 1930's to present day. However, people of today consider Emily's actions just as insane and unbalanced as a group of people probably would have in the 30's. The smell of death has not changed, though death is much more glorified and descriptive now through its overuse in action films and foreign relations. The most important thing to keep in mind is that human nature has not, and will not, change.   People, as a whole are prone to gossipping when jealous. They are likely to be curious about the actions and accomplishments of others, and reluctant to hear all sides of a tale before spinning their own. This story is a direct result of society, and in many ways, William Faulkner is not only commenting on society, but on the strong moral and psychological beam that must be upheld in order to resist it.

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