1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    WF Short Story Selection for July: A Rose for Emily

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by thirdwind, Jul 19, 2011.

    For the remainder of this month, we'll be reading and discussing A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner. This story can be found online for free.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I just finished reading it, and here are my initial impressions (without spoilers).

    The thing I liked most was the openness to interpretation the text provides. The story is told over several decades, and the narrator spends no more than a few paragraphs describing what happened during a particular time period. This allows the reader to fill in the gaps, and our interpretations are ultimately dependent on how sympathetic we are towards Emily.

    The narrator is also an interesting part of the story. The narrator refers to Emily as Miss Emily, suggesting that he/she may have a closer relationship to Emily than the other people of the town. Thus, he/she may not be a completely reliable narrator, especially if he/she is sympathetic toward Emily.

    I haven't read any of Faulkner's other short stories, but this one was pretty good. It also seems to be his most famous, since it's the only short story of his I've ever heard of.
     
  3. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've not read much of it so far, but I have to agree with what thirdwind has said about openness to interpretation. I can't add much more to it because I haven't finished reading it yet. One thing I've noticed is, to me, it seems to flow well and there's just an easiness about it to read. I shall update this when I've finished reading it.
     
  4. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Alright, I just read this last night and these are my thoughts/observations (SPOILERS)

    I found the writing style to be both brilliant and cumbersome in some parts. I have to hand it to Faulkner for his ability to transition between periods with an extreme fluid like motion to where the readers don't even realize that they've switched periods until mid-way through a particular scene.

    The first thing I noticed is that the story is not told in chronological order. It begins with Emily's funeral where the narrator reiterates the course of Emily's life from the time her father passed up until Emily herself passes. It then seamlessly switches into the meeting/talk Emily has with the Colonel where we get a better understanding of Emily's personality. She's strong and very direct, and almost scary in her way that she refused to pay her taxes. This is also the scene where we learn of the dreadful smell - which suggest that this scene occurred after the "rat poison" scene and Homer's abandonment/death. The scene then switches to Homer's arrival in town and takes us through Homer and Emily's "courtship," which then is interwoven with how Emily becomes after her father's death.

    Here, I want to assume that one reason of why Homer abandoned Emily was because of how Emily became after her father's death. More withdrawn and closed. I think Emily has always been a person that prefers isolation and this became even more prominent after her father's death.

    It then switches to Homer's abandonment - Emily's even deeper isolation - followed by the "rat poison" scene which was my favorite. So here we learn that Emily may intend to use the poison for things other than rats. At first I also assumed that she was planning on committing suicide but we instead learn something even more sinister may have happened, especially when Homer was never heard from again. It then switches to a brief period of Emily's life after Homer's abandonment - her china painting classes, other small visits in town - until finally we reach her death, and the final scenes where the narrator takes us through Emily's house and we learn of massive amounts of dust and clutter, and of course the skeleton corpse and the silver hair.

    I have to hand it to Faulkner for seriously doing those transitions like nothing. What was amazing about it was that I didn't once get confused, never had to go back and read it twice, yet at the same time, I didn't realize I was even reading different backwards/forward periods until I was MIDWAY through. It was pretty amazing.

    I thought it was cumbersome with some sentences that were a little too wordy and could do with less, but there weren't many.

    Other thoughts.

    I found the thoughts of all the women in town to be pretty interesting. In all the time Emily was alive, they pitied her and further made up excuses for her behavior. You could tell that they thought of her as odd or a burden, and even that that deep down they may have disliked her, but maybe out of propriety or something, never directly said it but continued to make excuses for her. I thought the switch in their thoughts after her death to be pretty hilarious, odd, interesting, and fickle. At Emily's funeral, they literally made up stories of how she "used" to be. A friend, tea-mates, to even something to the likes of Emily being the "hallmark" of the town. I wonder if Faulkner was trying to make a point that only death is absolute and everything after just becomes blurry, where truth mixes with lies and nothing is certain. Also maybe at how fickle people are.

    Thoughts on Emily. I disliked her. The descriptions of her - fat, bloated, pale, with beady black eyes - reminded me of Bathilda Bagshot from Harry Potter when her body was being possessed by Nagini. Which is interesting, because the symbolism of that comparison could be true. I think Emily was a person that was sane but at the same time lost in her mind and a slave to her own bad traits. She seems to very blunt, straight-forward, someone who likes to be in control, and is damn scary in a directness. Her refusal to pay taxes, accept any federal mail, abide by laws, shows that she's abides by no one's rules but her own. I think she is someone that doesn't know how to deal with grief that she goes to lengths (such as killing) to deal with her displaced emotions/feelings. One of the reasons why I think Emily may have like isolation was because she knew that she really couldn't control her surroundings outside. In her house, in her mind, in her cluttered place, she was in control. Other than that, I think she's a character that's a waste of space.

    Other thoughts. I found her negro servant's actions at the end of the story to be fascinating. He opened the door for guests, then left out the backdoor, and was never heard from again. This shows that he and Emily didn't not have a close relationship and I wonder what he thought about everything, including the imprint of a dusty body in Emily's bed.

    The narrator, I have no idea who he might be. At first, I wanted to think that it was the servant, but it was too detached and didn't fit with the writing perspective. So I don't know - but they seem to have intimate knowledge of the scenes that it seems like no one else had.

    Don't know the symbolism of the title: "A Rose for Emily." Or why the story was called that other than the obvious.

    And that is all I have for now.
     
  5. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was going to raise this. Do we have any guesses for who the narrator is, other than Sundae's half-idea that it might have been the servant? If not a named individual, that at least a representative slice of that society? My thoughts relate to the story's title. Clue: the title of the story is not "A Rose For Miss Emily."

    I thought it was a fairly straight forward text, with a ending heavily foreshadowed by the author, but this was not to say it wasn't enjoyable. It allows an attainable window on the pre-war Confederate South, as well as on a certain standard of society in that Old South. It was period about to experience massive change, and it appeared that Miss Emily would have struggled greater than most to adapt, struggling so obviously as she did with personal change.

    Interested to read your thoughts on exactly why Miss Emily killed Homer/allowed to die.
     

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