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Essay: The Insanity of Emily Grierson: A Rose for Emily Analysis

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  • Published: 1 February 2018*
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  • Words: 980 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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A Rose for Emily

Sleeping next to a dead carcass is the epitome of insanity. William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” portrays the life of Emily Grierson- a woman characterized by failed relationships and loneliness. Although Faulkner is not explicit in stating so, the text is bleeding with evidence to concede that Mrs. Grierson is guilty of murder and readers are only left to answer the question “Why?” Emily’s growing mental instability, relationship with her father and her Oedipus complex is the indirect result in Homer Barron’s death.  

Faulkner reveals red flags during the early stages of her mental instability. A common threat to obtaining a disorder is a person’s family tree and unfortunately Emily’s aunt dies with a type of mental disorder. With her gene pool already in opposition, Emily clearly was given a double disadvantage with her previously mentioned father. However, her sickness does not begin to surface until after her father’s death. After her father’s death, Emily attempts to conceal his body within her own home which is reasonably brushed off as a lapse in judgment during a difficult time. Shortly thereafter, she does develop a relationship- an awkward relationship at best. Emily goes against the norm and has an affair with Homer Barron, a Yankee. During this time-period one could ponder why a southern girl like Emily, would have a romantic relationship out of wedlock with a Yankee (Citation). Furthermore, Faulkner describes Barron as a man that “liked men, and hung out with the younger boys in the Elk Club.” This seems to be an implication that Homer Barron does not even like women. This begs the questions as to why there would even be a relationship between Emily and Homer. The sexual intimacy, as will be discussed later, does not appear to be the driving force for Emily. Odd behavior is also observed by the townspeople that she is “holding her head high.” Subtly, this is an indication that her motivation of happiness is not from Homer Barron. A healthy relationship with a homosexual Yankee who has no sexual interest her is very unlikely.

Emily’s psychosis traces back to her relationship with her father. Mr. Grierson is the only parent Emily has due to her mother’s death in Emily’s early stage of life. Faulkner describes Mr. Grierson as a man with a “horse-whip” who holds the belief that no person is adequate for his daughter. Her father’s sentiment is nice at face value; however, it is this protective attitude that inhibits Emily’s ability to develop healthy relationships. This is also coupled with the fact that her father does not speak to any of his family. Emily does not even have the luxury of a supportive family. Instead, she is left to be completely dependent on her father. An inevitable tragedy that Mr. Grierson did not account for is his passing during Emily’s young adult years. With no husband and no family, Emily does not have a healthy way to cope with her loss. The only bond Emily has is now broken, leaving her in vulnerable state and the early stages of mental disability begin to rear its head. Unfortunately, Mr. Grierson’s protective parenting with Emily crosses the line from “a loving and caring father” to an overbearing dad who isolates his daughter from meaningful relationships- an environment that facilitates the potential for mental instability.

Emily’s relationship with her father is equally problematic as her inability to form outside relationships. First, it is important to consider the time period of this writing that is heavily influenced by Freudian philosophy. This became influential in explaining human behavior and as a result, many author’s works including Faulkner’s were influenced by Freud’s ideas.  Emily’s development is absent of natural sexual progression. While there is no evidence to support a physical incestuous relationship between Emily and her father, the type of emotional bond that results from a romantic relationship is projected onto her father. Faulkner later comments that Emily’s feelings natural desires to become a wife and a mother were repressed, but eventually the desires will come back and the energy has to be put somewhere (Gwynn 138) In Emily’s case, this emotional connection she desires is placed on her father because she is left with no other choice resulting in the Freudian “Oedipus Complex.” Unfortunately, Emily is never able to move beyond this stage because in her formidable years she develops a strong, yet unhealthy bond with her father. Emily would go on to pursue a love affair with Homer Barron that is seemingly natural. However, Emily’s unsuccessful attempt to keep her dead father in her house, is accomplished through the murder of Homer Barron. Homer becomes the replacement for her father in the most psychotic way possible. Unable to cope with losing her father in a way she sees fit, she murders the replacement and sleeps next to the rotting proxy of Mr. Grierson- Homer Barron. It is correct to say that Emily kills Homer because of her psychosis, but her actions are better explained by acknowledging her Oedipus Complex.

Emily’s childhood was the perfect environment for the development of an unhealthy life. She was put at an immediate disadvantage with the death of her mother and forced to live with an overbearing father. Her impressionable years were plagued with an unfortunate bond between her and her father that would ultimately lead to her insanity. There was nothing that Homer Barron did to deserve his death, he was just the carbon copy Emily needed to cope with losing her father. Instead of explaining away Homer’s death as a result of Emily’s insanity, Faulkner reveals why through Emily’s mind of insanity.

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