A Rose for Emily: Characterization

Characterization refers to the techniques a writer uses to develop
characters. In the story A Rose for Emily William Faulkner uses
characterization to reveal the character of Miss Emily. He expresses the
content of her character through physical description, through her actions,
words, and feelings, through a narrator's direct comments about the
character's nature, and through the actions, words, and feelings, of other
characters. Faulkner best uses characterization to examine the theme of the
story, too much pride can end in homicidal madness.
Miss Emily, the main character of this story, lives for many years as a
recluse, someone who has withdrawn from a community to live in seclusion.
"No visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight
or ten years earlier" (394). Faulkner characterizes Miss Emily's attempt to
remove herself from society through her actions. "After her father's death
she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw
her at all" (395). The death of her father and the shattered relationship
with her sweetheart contributed to her seclusion.
Though her father was responsible for her becoming a recluse, her pride
also contributed to her seclusion. "None of the young men were quite good
enough for Miss Emily and such" (395). Faulkner uses the feelings of other
characters to show Miss Emily's pride. Her pride has kept her from
socializing with other members of the community thus reinforcing her
solitary. But Miss Emily's father is still responsible for her being a
hermit. "We remembered all the young men her father had driven away..."
(396). If he had not refuse the men who wanted to go out with Miss Emily,
she may have not gone crazy.
Miss Emily may have wanted seclusion, but her heart lingered for
companionship. Her desire for love and companionship drove her to murder
Homer Baron. She knew her intentions when she bought the arsenic poison.
"Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head"
(400). Her deepest feelings and hidden longings were lying in the bed. Miss
Emily's pride resulted in the shocking murder of Homer Baron.
Faulkner's use of characterization to describe Miss Emily and her
intentions was triumphant in bring the story to life. Miss Emily's pride
was expressed through her actions, words, and feelings, through a
narrator's direct comments about the character's nature, and through the
actions, words, and feelings, of other characters. Miss Emily's story
constitutes a warning against the sin of pride: heroic isolation pushed too
far ends in homicidal madness.
April 1, 1998 /English III Honors

Town and Time:

Teaching Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"

Mary Ellen Byrne, Ocean County College, Toms River, New Jersey

The reading of "A Rose for Emily" is usually a first step into the world of
William Faulkner for freshman literature students. Intrigued as they are
initially by the story's ending, these unsophisticated readers often remain
perplexed by this complex, challenging Faulknerian world where the town of
Jefferson is much more than simply the setting: this town is a character
with a voice and values. And this town, understood as setting, character,
and narrative voice, controls "A Rose for Emily" from opening through
closing sentence. Our role as teacher is to help students sort through
Faulkner's interlaced patterns to the discovery that we ultimately know
more about the town and its attitudes than we know about Emily Grierson

To assist our students on their "first foray into Yoknapatawpha" (Brooks
107), we can establish the narrative voice by discussing the first
paragraphs. We can demonstrate that this narrator, the voice of the town,
an unnamed townsperson, present at the funeral of Emily Grierson, knows her
life story, one constructed from the gossip, speculations, and legends of
the town. We can posit that the narrator constructs this story-telling as a
stream of associations, a mesh of dramatic scenes and images. Although this
telling is not ordered chronologically, a chronology of events can be
detected. Here by the use of Table One (see below) we can begin to
delineate with our students, in parallel lines, the actual story line of
events and the actual chronology of events. As we move scene by scene on
the story line, we can connect the event there to its appropriate place on
the chronology line.

This delineation focuses our students on the importance of time for
Faulkner. These parallel lines help them fathom that for Faulkner clock
time, man's measure of the chronology of events, is not the essential time.
Rather, time is experience, captured and held within the