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Miss Emily, the main character of this story, lives for many years as a recluse, someone who has withdrawn from a community to live in seclusion.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.
http://www.digitalessays.com/essays/eng_gen/eng_gen_0009.shtml 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 herself.
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 consciousness, is essential. Thus to Faulkner the past is ever present: was is is.
Approaching our teaching of "A Rose for Emily" by discussing the crucial dramatic scenes as they are presented on the story line, the student sees the town as charcter and voice; the suspension of our accustomed time order; the juxtaposition of past and present time in a narrative strategy; the crucial images; and Emily Grierson as the town knows her and as Faulkner wants the reader to understand her.
The narrative begins at its near-end, at the funeral of Emily Grierson. The voice of "our town" identifies Emily as a "tradition, a duty, and a care." Men and women of "our town" react differently to her. The men act from "respectful affection for a fallen monument"; the women, from "curiosity." This sense of "hereditary obligation" triggers a memory. In 1894 Colonel Sartoris had remitted her taxes, but generations change within the story, and their values differ. So the next generation, feeling no "hereditary obligation," attempts to collect these reportedly remitted taxes.
This encounter between the "next generation with its modern ideas" and the aged Emily, now in her 60s, gives our students their first glimpse of her. We should emphasize for students both the visual details here and Faulkner's skill with vividly concrete description, for the crucial images result from this visual artistry. Hers is a dusty, dank, desolate realm dominated by the presence of the "crayon portrait" of her father, long dead but indomitably