Culture And Identity In "A Term Paper


Culture and Identity in "A Rose for Emily"

William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" is the disturbing story of an elderly unmarried woman (Emily) who lives alone and rarely leaves her home. Her father was demanding and controlling, and she only loved one man, Homer Barron, who deserted her one day and never came back to town. Culture and identity are a vital part of this short story, because Emily resorts to murder rather than admit the man she loves does not love her. She kills him with arsenic and keeps his body in an upstairs bedroom for decades in order to live out her lie.

The story is a short look into the culture and identity of Southern women, (and many other women as well), who view love and marriage as the only true occupation in life. Emily allows her father to control her life, and when he dies, she looks to Homer for that control and support. She also listens to the eternal gossip of the townspeople and lets it influence her life and her decisions. In short, she is incapable of making rational decisions on her own because of the influence of the people around her, and her identity is wrapped up in local culture and beliefs, rather than her own needs and feelings. She kills Homer so she will have eternal love, as unreal as that seems, and to placate the townspeople who think she will commit suicide because of Homer's desertion. Southern women had few choices other than marriage, and for Emily, killing Homer was a rational act that gave her control and reason over something. In her town, that would not have been possible for a single, unmarried woman. Her culture limited her, and so she made the only decision she could to remain sane in a limiting and irrational world.

This is a sad story not because Emily lived so long contentedly with a dead man, but because the townspeople were so uninvolved with her and her plight. With some support and understanding, she might have lived a rational and happy life, but the culture did not support that for her or for other women.

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