Ralph Ellison Questions and Answers

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Compare and contrast Ralph Ellison's view of the South with William Faulkner's from "A Rose for Emily".

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Ellison's overriding opinion about the South, or any region, relates to identities and is that our identities are not a result of "geography," meaning not the result of pressures from our geographic area, such as the South. It may be that Ellison, like his hero in Invisible Man, is somewhat limited and naive. On the other hand, as shown in "A Rose for Emily," Faulkner puts forth the idea that identity is determined by geography, by the environs in which you grow up, in the environs in which values and outlooks shape your perspective.

Thus, for Faulkner, Emily must slay Homer in order to override the division between Yankee and Southerner. However for Ellison, the unnamed narrator of Invisible Man can discover his identity in a hole of a cellar in New York, the cellar being symbolic of the absence of geography.

Accordingly, Ellison's writing isn't focused upon geographic particulars--nor is it focused upon racial particulars--as the narrator before mentioned says, "Who knows but that on the lower frequencies I speak for you?" On the other hand, Faulkner emphasizes particulars pertaining to geography in "Emily," for example, as when he writes:

Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, ... remitted her taxes, ... on into perpetuity.

Ellison differed from Faulkner in that Ellison beloved that individuals are able to transform society through language: language influences reality and determines perceptions. As can be seen, the literary approaches of Ellison and Faulkner pose an essential contrast when compared.

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