A thesis statement for an essay should be one sentence only, and you should be able to back it up with evidence from the literary text and scholarly criticism.
To develop your thesis statement for Essay 1, you will need to first select one of following literary texts we have read:
• Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour
• Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”
• Langston Hughes, “Harlem”
• Stacey Waite, “The Kind of Man I Am at the DMV”
• Alice Walker, “Everyday Use”
• William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”
Once you have selected the literary work you wish to write about, you will need to select one of the following elements of literature:
• Setting (either place or time)
• One of the characters or the relationship between characters
• A theme of the work
• The tone of the work
• Symbolism within the work
• Irony within the work
Now that you have chosen both the literary work and the element of literature, it is time to consider your opinion. For example, let’s say that you have chosen “The Story of an Hour” and Mrs. Mallard. What do you think about Mrs. Mallard in the story? Is she a horrible person for reacting to her husband’s presumed death the way she does? Are her feelings understandable considering the time period and way marriages work for women? What is “the joy that kills” her? Is it, like the doctors think, her happiness at seeing husband alive again, or the joy she felt at freedom and the despair she feels when it is take away?
A Rose for Emily
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily “provides a critical overview of the traditional and patriarchal character of the society that defines and controls Emily’s position in her own house and her community. The plot is set against the Southern society of the 20th century in America. Emily is denied freedom based on the expectations of her father and what society expects from her. The influences of a patriarchal society and the expectations of women shape her personality. The essay would focus on how the position of women in society gets controlled by patriarchal ideologies in a male-dominated society. Emily tries to live up to the ideals set by society, and her relationship with her father and Homer Barron reflects her struggles to survive in the patriarchal community. Her behavior reflects on how she tries to break away from the patriarchal character of the society she lives in.
Faulkner’s story ‘A Rose for Emily” is placed in a small-town Jefferson, and he places Emily in the generations of Mississippians (Bonner 492). Jefferson town is a well-established community with deep engrained traditions. This is why the townspeople take no time to unite as one once they see any behavior which is inappropriate for society. During the 19th century, it was customary for a man to work and for the woman to sit at home and take care of the house. She was not expected to earn or live independently. She was criticized by society for not able to find a suitable man for her who can earn and take care of her. It is only if she can marry a man of her stature that she can be given the respect and status of an honorable lady (Muslija 14). The short story introduces the reader to one of the most talked-about female characters in the English literature, Emily Grierson.
Emily is indeed one of the most mysterious characters created by Faulkner, and what adds to the mystery around her is her solitary and private world. There is a long history of trauma and repression behind her struggles with personal grief and a restricted social life (Argiro 445). Emily is the only daughter of a prestigious family of the Old South. Although she had several suitors in her youth, somehow, she never gets married. Perhaps the Griersons felt that they were much higher than the rest of the town and thus did not find any man good enough for Emily. Emily finds herself an object of pity when she remains unmarried by the age of 30, and one her father dies, she is left with almost nothing (Burg, Boyle, and Lang 378-379). Emily’s relationships with her father and Homer dominate this story that continues to elicit different responses from readers and scholars over the decades (Bonner 498). After all, the poor woman had had no life at all. During the earlier years, she was under the dominating control of her father, and after his death, when her lover was about to quit her, she plans to murder him in order to keep him of ever. Miss Emily’s actions are always judged by the townspeople, and she was assessed if she is living up to the models of patriarchy and what was expected of a woman in the American South (Muslija 3). The story reflects how patriarchy and expectations of women can destroy them as they struggle for their identity within the oppressive environment and try to survive emotionally and socially. As a silent female in a patriarchal society, it is no surprise to see Emily fall prey to psychological disorders (Romdhani 1514). There are strict rules for women in highly patriarchal Southern society while men are free to live as they please.
Emily’s’ relationship with her father
Faulkner’s main character lives a silent life because of an absent mother and her domineering father. As a silent female in a patriarchal society, it is no surprise to see Emily fall prey to psychological disorders (Romdhani 1514). As her father prevented her from mixing with the opposite sex, she suffers from sexual repression. Emily lives up to the reductive social stereotype under her father’s rule (Argiro 448). Miss Emily’s relation to her father can be viewed as unique as she didn’t have a mother. She has to live up to the image of a high-class people and remain as an outsider amongst the townspeople.
Emily’s father kept her separated from the townspeople because of their self-imposed higher status. Or, perhaps it was because of the perceived state of her mind that questions her sanity (Bonner. 496). Although Miss Emily is not physically attractive and despite the fear of her, she is admired by the townspeople. They are perhaps fascinated by her aloof and mysterious presence (Proitsaki 7). Because of her family’s history, she enjoys a certain position in the town and is paced as a higher position than the rest of the community. Her superior position in society isolates her further and prevents her from mixing with the locals. Emily was indifferent towards the townspeople as she had been brought up like that and did not look at herself as part of the community (Proitsaki 10). When she is seen in the window, her silhouette framed by the window, and the light behind her, the townspeople perhaps see her frozen in time and space like a portrait (Bonner 496). Despite the psychological state of Miss Emily, she is seen positively by those around her as she lives the ideal life as a young girl and a woman.
It was normal for a father to dominate over his daughter and decide her marriage and who would be her perfect partner. Miss Emily’s father exerts his power and dominance over his daughter by keeping away any suitors as they might not be good enough for Emily or may ruin their ideal image (Muslija 12). The slender figure of Miss Emily in white in the background and her father, with his back to her in a straddled silhouette with a horsewhip, clearly transmits the role and position of the father in Emily’s life. The horsewhip works as a symbol of power and control, and despite her father’s back towards her, it shows that he is the one in command here and has complete control over his daughter (Muslija 10). It is a perfect example of women become victims of male domination and brought up to be compliant and passive. Moreover, Miss Emily, dressed in white, symbolizes purity and virtue, which was of great value in the South. It is because of those higher ideals of her family and the lofty expectations from her, keep her single even when she crosses the age of 30 (Muslija 10). She is seen as pure, obedient, and passive by everybody around her.
When the ministers and doctors in Jefferson try to convince Emily to accept her father’s death and give up his body, they again stand for the more strong and rational gender as males. Emily is shown to be weaker and emotional as the second sex (Muslija 14). The ministers and doctors take control of her mind and come up as are logical and intelligent components of the society that the women are in need of. At no time or instance, the people around Emily try to understand her from her perspective. She has to live up to the expectations of her father and society at all times.
Emily’s’ relationship with her lover Homer Barron
Emily’s ill-fated romance with Homer Barron, who has an outgoing personality, ends with a tragedy. Her relationship with Homer becomes the gossip of the town. While some are glad, she has found a love interest; others are scandalized that how can she consider a Northerner as her partner. The town’s interest in Emily and her life show the hyper-vigilance and class consciousness of the society around her. The only man in her life is her father, and after her father’s death, her sexual repression leads to transference in her lover Homer Barron (Romdhani 1516).
Emily requires care and protection because of the way she has been brought up, always depended on her father. This is why she looks at Tobe for a silent but support. When she is out into the public sphere, she is accompanied by Homer. Other than that, the townspeople rarely see Emily. While the townspeople are pleased to see Emily getting into a relationship with Homer Barron, they are both for and against the relationship. While they are eager to see where the relationship goes, they take no time to feel sorry for Emily as Homer is not the marrying type and had remarked that he liked men. They look at Miss Emily with her head high in the glittering buggy, with Homer Barron by her side with pity (Muslija 16). Miss Emily’s relationship with Homer becomes the gossip of the small town. Homer, as a Northerner, portrays himself as a rich man. The description of Homer with a crooked hat, a whip in his hand, and cigar in his mouth symbolize Southern masculinity of being cool and in control (Muslija 18). The author draws inferences on the character of Homer and if his intentions are genuine. He himself admits that he is not a marrying man, and advances of Hal Blythe towards him point out that he might even be a homosexual. He likes younger men and often sat and drank with them in the Elks’ Club (Argiro 446). Homer and his chivalric appearance contribute to the impression that he is a masculine man with aura. Thus, it is a very untypical love affair between Emily and Homer.
Miss Emily’s efforts in her relationship with Homer can be seen as a means to construct a confident self-identity. However, her proud behavior is not seen as appropriate for women in the South (Muslija 18). In the male dominated society, any woman who rejects the submissive role the society expects from her is viewed negatively. So, when Miss Emily rides in the buggy with Homer with her head high, she gives the impression that she doesn’t care what the people think of her behavior. Although she expresses strength, the townspeople do not approve of her going into a relationship that will not end in marriage.
While the townspeople welcome Homer in Emily’s life, they make a comparison of their social class and judge if Homer is good enough for Emily. After all, both are from very different social classes. Emily’s father had been strict about her marrying someone of her own class. Emily’s relationship is looked with approval by the society around her as now she could finally marry a man who could earn and take care of her. The townspeople suddenly develop a sympathetic tone towards her as she is making efforts to find herself a man and future provider. This is what is expects from her and how she can earn the respect of those around her. She is looked at more positively now that she has a man beside her. After all, a woman is not expected to live on her own and needs a man to survive in the patriarchal society. Still, Emily’s reputation is at stake when she gets involved with Homer, a construction worker. As he is not the kind of man Emily should marry from the perspective of the townspeople, her relationship with him was questionable. Her out-of-town cousins were called in to save her reputation (Burg, Boyle, and Lang 378-379). The favorable eye towards Emily turns bitter again once it is known that Homer prefers men and does not seek marriage. Again, the townspeople look at the relationship with disapproval as Emily lives within a conservative and religious society. She is an aristocrat; Homer is a day-laborer, and it is not right sexually or socially to marry such a man. Consequently, she is again pitied by the townspeople, and her behavior is seen to be inappropriate.
The nature of their relationship gets further securitized and complicated when a Baptist minister asks Emily about her relationship with Homer, as asserted by Argiro (446). While the entire town is not in favor of the inappropriate relationship between Emily and Homer, she chooses to continue her relationship. According to the townspeople, she is setting a bad example and forced the Baptist minister to interfere and call upon her. The minister’s wife even writes to her relations in Alabama (Muslija 20). Southern society’s norms have indeed set rigid rules for men and women, and this is what makes the townspeople react against Miss Emily and her relationship with Homer.
When Emily poisons Homer Barron, it testifies her blurred vision of reality. By murdering Homer, she forces him to stay with her and ensures his presence with her (Romdhani 1519). Her reaction to the corpse of her lover and her belief that he is still alive reminds one of her attitudes towards the corpse of her father. Apparently, her behavior reflects her deep psychotic state that she is in because of those years of oppression within a male-dominated society.
The mysterious disappearance of Homer and his decomposed body in Miss Emily’s house and the long strand of iron-gray hair next to it on the pillow completely baffle the society. However, his death shows Miss Emily’s failure to deal with men and her dependency on them. She became used to the dominating presence of her father, and his absence makes her emotionally attached to Homer. She wants him so desperately in his life that she poisons him so that she can keep him.
The short story by Faulkner is about a Southern lady who turns into a murderer as she tries to survive the constraints of patriarchal oppression. Faulkner’s multilayered narrative reflects upon the well-defined gender roles within a patriarchal society (Tuhkunen 124). Emily, who is looked down upon as society expects certain behaviors from her as a woman. It is true that no matter what society or era one lives in, the actions of one are judge based on the social norms of the society. Although the townspeople look at Emily as the perfect daughter and believe that she has a perfect relationship with her father, they are not aware of the true plight of the girl as a victim of the patriarchy that lives not just within her home but permeates in the society. Interestingly, if Miss Emily is still single and not able to find a suitor for herself, the townspeople blame her for that. She is seen as not following the Southern standards of finding a man to marry her, and thus, they speak of her negatively (Muslija 12). While the townspeople are curious about Emily and her life, they keep a certain distance from her. However, they take no time to interfere and give their opinions when they find her going against the social norms set by the religiously strict society (Muslija 21). When Emily makes a move out of her seclusion to explore a new intimate social reality in her relationship with Homer, although it was a bold move from her part, she was still seen socially as a naïve woman (Argiro 448).
Miss Emily’s isolated upbringing makes her a very private person. She has had minimal contact with the world around her or the townspeople. When she refuses to believe that her father is dead and wants to keep her father’s dead body, society fails to understand her mind. After all, her father was the only family she has had, and she knew nobody else so well, she is reluctant to give him up. This is why she enters a state of denial of his being dead. The townspeople look at her like an abnormal figure when she refuses to hand them over her father’s body and accuses them of invading her privacy. The townspeople fail to understand her and take no time to depict her negatively. When she is left alone and poor after her father’s death, the townspeople do not empathize with her but are glad within their hearts that now being alone and miserable, she can become more humanized. They need not look up to her anymore as she is an aristocratic woman who is now poor and downfallen (Muslija 12). The negative image of Miss Emily is again a sign of a patriarchal attitude of the society that never finds fault with the men but is quick to blame the women.
Even though the townswomen are not very sure about the relationship and if it is sexual, the possibility of the relationship not leading to marriage is enough for them to see it as scandalous. While Homer is not criticized by the townspeople for his attitude and behaviors, it is still Miss Emily, who is looked down upon as the society expects certain behaviors from her as a woman. This is all because Homer is a man and more acceptable in society. While he is free to do and act as he pleases, women in the South have to follow the traditions and are not allowed to act beyond it. While the society approves of Miss Emily being in relation to Homer, as it is better to be with a man than no man at all, the same society criticizes her for the very same relationship for no fault of hers. She is seen as a bad woman despite the faults with Homer of potentially been a homosexual and not interested in marriage, While Homer gets away scot-free, it is Emily who is once again pitied and criticized by the townspeople.
Emily’s relationship with her father and Homer Barron affair damaged her psyche. Emily murders Homer as he refuses marriage, and the only way to keep him is by killing him. Thus, by doing so, she makes him into a melancholic icon of their former romance (Argiro 448). Emily keeps the corpse of her lover as a response to the repressed violence of the patriarchal society (Romdhani 1516). She leads a silent life, and gradually her psyche becomes uncontainable and uncontrollable because of the lost desires and freedom in a patriarchal society. She disrupts the dominant male discourse with a silenced body and makes a deliberate escape from the patriarchal lenses that are always prying on her (Romdhani 1522). The townspeople fail to comprehend the result of her father’s overprotective dominance towards Emily. As Miss Emily’s behavior goes against Southern family norms, she is looked upon with negativity. Nobody gives a thought as to if her reactions and behaviors were the result of overprotection and isolation in her life.
The women lived a morally strict and controlled life in the South because of the dominant patriarchy conventions. The examination of Emily’s’ relationship with her father how she tries to live up to Southern society’s norms and patriarchal society to meet the expectations of her father and the townspeople. Her relationship with her lover Homer Barron shows how she tries to find some control in her life. While the town looks at Miss Emily with respect and admiration, its perceptions are stirred by discomfort and revulsion when Miss Emily fails to live by the norms set by the patriarchal society. While she becomes an object of affection and pity upon her father’s death, her courtship with Homer and his death turn those affections into revulsions.
Argiro, Thomas R. “Miss Emily After Dark.” Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures, vol. 64, no. 3/4, 2011, pp. 445.
Allen, Dennis W. “Horror and Perverse Delight: Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily’.” Modern Fiction Studies, 1984, pp. 685.
Burg, Jennifer, Anne Boyle, and Sheau-Dong Lang. “Using Constraint Logic Programming to Analyze the Chronology in “A Rose for Emily”.” Computers and the Humanities, vol. 34, no. 4, 2000, pp. 377-392.
Bonner, Thomas. “The Functions of Ambiguity: A Response to “Miss Emily After Dark”.” The Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 3-4, 2011, pp. 491-500. Link
Muslija, Amila. ” All Eyes on Miss Emily An Analysis of Southern Society through a Feminist Perspective in William Faulkner?s “A Rose For Emily.” School of Languages and Literature/English. vol. 1, No.1, 2012, pp. 1-32.
Proitsaki, Maria. ” Miss Emily, Imaged as Goddess, in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.” Diva Portal. vol. 1, No. 1, 2011, pp. 1-20.
Romdhani, Mourad. ” Miss Emily Grierson’s Psychopathy in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”: Overt Disorder, Covert Order.” Culture. vol. 3, No. 1, 2016, pp. 1512-1524.
Tuhkunen, Taina. “Idols, Icons, and Moving Pictures: William Faulkner’s Southern Lady in Lyndon Chubbuck’s Adaptation of ‘A Rose for Emily’.” South Atlantic Review, vol. 79, no. 1-2, 2015, pp. 124.
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