How is William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" feminist?

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Stephen Holliday eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," examines several themes--Old South/New South conflict, repression, moral decay, crushed aspirations--but to argue that feminism as such is part of Faulkner's thematic goals is not useful.

Having said that, I think there is certainly evidence that Faulkner felt sympathy for Miss Emily, and he actually said as much in a 1959 interview.  When asked why he titled the story as he did, his response was that he felt sorry for Miss Emily's blighted life, essentially the result of her repressive father who, among other things, rejected all of her potential suitors when she was a young woman, thereby condemning her to a life in which her hopes for a husband, a home, and children were crushed.  But this is not a feminist critique; it is, rather, an empathetic view of a human being whose life has been ruined by an over-bearing, cruel parent.

Some critics might argue, however, that the way Miss Emily resolves her life's original disappointment--by killing Homer and "living" with him for decades--is feminism at work, a woman taking control of her environment and creating a perverted semblance of the life she was denied by her selfish father.  This interpretation, I would argue, is based on revisionism and an incorrect view of Miss Emily's motivations.  Because she is mentally unbalanced and spiritually ill, her decision to kill Homer and make him her "husband" is not based on a desire to take control of  a life destroyed by a man but simply an attempt to fulfill an aspiration she was denied.

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A Rose for Emily

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