“A Rose for Emily:” Mental Illness and Violence

 “A Rose for Emily:” Mental Illness and Violence

Some of the key questions a first-time reader of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” would ask involve why a sane person would consider sleeping or speaking with the dead and mete violence to their lover. Specifically, in the present-day society, a reader would refer to cognitive psychology to explain that the individuals engaged in these acts are mentally ill or might have suffered trauma. Faulkner uses the gothic short story to chronicle the complicated life of Miss Emily Gierson, who grows under a tyrannical, as well as selfish father. She is brought up in a harsh and isolated environment in Jefferson, a town invented by the author in Mississippi. For instance, her father is portrayed chasing young men away from her. While the author has not included a definitive narrator in writing “A Rose for Emily,” he succeeds in exploring the major themes of violence and mental illness.

Emily’ father subjected her to forced submission, which, in turn, caused far-reaching psychological consequences in her life, especially relationship with men and potentially tragic events. In particular, throughout the tale, Faulkner portrays the protagonist as an emotionally static individual. Given she is the only child to her sole parent, who is presented as a domineering father, Emily remains emotionally and psychologically isolated (Faulkner 78). According to Faulkner, the town firmly “believed that the Grierson family held themselves a little too high for what they really were” (78). Emily’s isolation and psychological problems manifested when her father died, especially a visit by ladies, who came to comfort her. The ladies were shocked to have Emily meet them at the door, “at the door,” while at the same time, “dressed as usual,” showing no sign of grief (Faulkner 77)). Most surprisingly, Emily proceeded to tell the visitors that “my father is not dead” (Faulkner 77). Concisely, it is evident from Emily’s response that she is traumatized and has to live in denial.

Besides denial of death as a sign of mental illness, Emily using a Homer Barron as a scapegoat, by meting violence to him, a man who is supposed to be her partner. Influenced by his domineering and abusive father, who is now deceased, Emily is pictured in the story controlling Baron. For instance, she prevents him from his attempts to leave her, with these restrictions and defiance resulting in Baron’s death (Tezcan 367). Given the hideous nature of Emily’s house and secretive life, she kills Baron by poisoning him (Faulkner 81). Baron’s skeletal remains are later found in a locked room. Ultimately, Emily’s violent behavior and deteriorating mental condition can be traced back to what she believes is perverted patriarchy that she must liberate herself from.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily” in Michael Meyer (ed.), The Bedfort Introduction to Literature, Sixth Edition. Boston: Bedfort/St. Martin’s, 2002, pp.75-81.

Tezcan, Tuncay. “A Stylistic Analysis of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and its Turkish Translation.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 158, pp. 364-369.

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