William Faulkner's Emily: A Character Study

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Only Time Will Tell "A Rose for Emily," by William Faulkner, is an interesting character study. Faulkner fully develops the characters in this story by using the passage of time and the setting as well as the narration. The story is not told in chronological order; this allows him to piece in relevant information in an almost conversational way. He tells a tale of a woman who goes slowly insane due to heredity and environment; and describes the confusion and curiosity she causes the watching town. The tale takes place in a smallish town in Mississippi, circa 1920. Over time, the glory of the town has faded, just like Miss Emily Grierson, the main character, and her house. At one time, the house was one of the best houses in one of the best neighborhoods; Miss Emily was considered one of the best young women in town. Now, her house stands amidst the business section of town, a run-down eyesore. This compares to Emily herself; once a beauty, she is now old and considered crazy. Miss Emily and the changes in both her appearance and mental state are portrayed in full detail. Once a young, slim woman, she is now fat and bloated, her eyes "looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough" (Faulkner 468). Her coldness and reclusive nature becomes more pronounced as the story evolves. As she ages, she does not leave the house as often and allows fewer visitors to come in. Two men directly influenced her fate, her father and her lover. Her father did not believe anyone was good enough for her; so he ran off all of her possible suitors. He is described as a "spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip" (Faulkner 469). Her first sign of insanity appears when her father dies; since she had no-one else, her mind refused to believe that he was dead. Two years later, when Emily was about thirty, she met Homer Barron, her only sweetheart. He is described more directly than anyone else in the story, including Emily. He is "a Yankee - a big, dark, ready man" (Faulkner 470), good natured and well liked by everyone. His refusal to marry Emily pushes her over the brink, into madness. Homer disappears quietly, saying goodbye to no-one. The third man in her life, her manservant, is described as a quiet and reserved black man.
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