Greetings from Louisiana! The state that first got Faulkner’s creative juices flowing. He met Sherwood Anderson in New Orleans and did not stop writing after that. Though he first thought he’d be a poet.
To get my thoughts flowing I’ll begin with my experience reading the short story, “A Rose for Emily.” For starters, Josh, James and I read it aloud one night. It was their first time ever reading the story, and we were all struck by different aspects. They made connections with “The Dead,” James Joyce’s famous short story. They noted, as well, the strange role of the narrator. I would like to know other people’s thoughts on the narrator, narrating voice, of the story. He or she (I think she) seems to be an active participant in the story and the town’s history, as well as the activities he/she describes. So we have a nonobjective narrator, thus an untrustworthy or unreliable narrator. Thinking about this, I began to make my own chart of what I thought to be the story’s chronology. More on this in a second.
The narrator often characterizes Emily using nouns not traditionally applied to humans: “a tradition, a duty, and a care” (119), “an idol,” “a tableau” (123). The narrator emphasizes that the town finds her to be a burden but also enjoys seeing her struggle. These sorts of paradoxes seem to reflect one of Faulkner’s main themes in the story — that of the generational clash in the South after the Civil War. The different code of ethics or honor between “General Sartoris’ generation” and “the rising generation” is stark and produces the main tensions of the story (120,122). This is highlighted most interestingly in the detail of Miss Emily and her father being viewed by the town “as a tableau”: their antiqued silhouettes are a sour reminder for the town of its past, a past that saw both grandeur and defeat. Miss Emily embodies both of these characteristics just as the South did after the war. This tableau bit is important to follow, for, as I learned it, Faulkner was inspired by the Keats poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” We will again see a type of tableau in As I Lay Dying, one that can be traced through the details back again to Keats’ poem. This is the most explicit usage of this motif by Faulkner, not surprisingly, as this is one of his earliest works.
I don’t want to go on too long, so I will stop myself there for now. I hope people will share their reactions – any at all, even if it’s just about the grossness of the storyline. Others have been intrigued enough to trace the timeline of the story as it is given in the text. If you find this difficult to do yourself, don’t worry, some have had to use “constraint logic programming” to figure it out. Also, other motifs in “A Rose for Emily” that you can look out for in later works include: dust, watches [ticking], windows, flags, and several others. We’ll identify some of these more as our reading group progresses, and maybe by the end of the summer we’ll have a sense of Faulkner’s use of various motifs throughout his career.