Factors That Impacted Miss Emily's Behavior

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William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” is a famous example of what some critics call the “Southern gothic” genre, in which the close-knit qualities and antiquated customs of a Southern community lead to aberrant , sometimes grotesque behavior. There is a voyeuristic aspect to these stories, as though the reader is invited to observe the bizarre nature of aspects of life and belief in the South. Of course, the observation of ‘exotic’ customs is not enough to explain Emily’s beliefs and motivations for her bizarre and transgressive acts – murdering her lover and then living with his corpse for many years. However, there is considerable doubt regarding the correct way to interpret Emily’s thoughts and actions. There are two principle schools of thought: while some critics search for a personal, psychological explanation, assuming that realism is a dominant factor in this story, other critics conceptualize Emily as a product and a symbolic representation of her society. As such, Emily’s actions are motivated not by an individual psychological profile but by larger social dynamics. This second explanation is more feasible and compelling. Therefore, I would conclude that the character of Emily is an allegorical representation of the South’s struggle between conservativism and progress, and her motivations and beliefs must be understood as those of the South in general.

Some writers present convincing psychological explanations, regarding Emily as a realistic representation of a person. For example, Emily’s relative isolation, living “…at odds with… [a] close-knit community" (O'Bryan-Knight 328) is seen to define her social position. Initially, the strictness of her father and the watchfulness of her community may both have ...

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O’Bryan-Knight, Jean. “From Spinster to Eunuch: William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Mario Vargas Llosa's Los cachorros”. Comparative Literature Studies. Vol. 34, No. 4 (1997), pp. 328-347

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