In "A Rose for Emily," what are some of the feminist elements?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In William Faulkner's strange and haunting short story, "A Rose for Emily," there are several feminist elements.

The first example can be seen when Miss Emily goes out riding with Homer Baron. She is beneath him, socially, according to the story's unnamed narrator. It is not the behavior one would expect of someone of her social standing, and yet Miss Emily cares little for the social conventions of the day, doing what she wants.

At another point in the story, the town elders visit Miss Emily to try to get her to pay her taxes. Colonel Sartoris, a politician long gone from this world, had exempted her from paying into "perpetuity," when her father died. Instead of being cowed or intimidated by these men, and leaders of the community at that, she stands up for herself, repeats the agreement made with the deceased Colonel, and dismisses the men. This would have been highly unusual for a woman of that time.

When Miss Emily's father dies, it would have been appropriate for an unmarried woman to go to live with family, or have a chaperone live with her. Miss Emily's relatives show up and stay for a short while, but soon she has them packing and gone. From this point on, Emily lives alone in her home with only the company of a servant. This also defied the social norms of the time. It would seem that while some people in town might have admired her independence, others would not have known what to make of her.

It is hard to know if Faulkner saw Miss Emily as a feminist figure. He had an eye for the macabre, and it may be that living alone allowed Miss Emily’s character to behave in a way that so shocks the reader at the end of the story.

However, art (and literature is a form of art) takes on a life of its own, meaning different things to different people. It may well seem that Miss Emily provides a feminist element in this story. She certainly turned her back on what was expected from women in the South, especially, during her time. She was a law unto herself.


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