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Rose for Emily – short story analysis Essay Sample

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Rose for Emily – short story analysis Essay Sample

Parents and the childhood experiences are the most powerful influences on one’s life. Although one has a lifetime to develop his own views and characteristics, it is the childhood period that is the most important in acquiring fundamental perceptions on life and knowledge of morality. The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence and A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner show how upbringing effects one’s life and mental state. In both stories incompetent parenting causes the main characters to develop unhealthy obsessions, which eventually lead to the destruction of their mental state. Children’s susceptible minds may be influenced by misconceptions and immoral views of their parents. Youngsters tainted by unfit parenting may develop obsession, which leads to destruction of their mental state. Unhealthy obsession causes one to become socially isolated from others. As obsessive compulsion develops, one submerges into a world of delusion and becomes detached from reality. Incompetent parents cause children to develop destructive obsession that results in mental imprisonment.

Children’s vulnerable minds may be influenced by the distorted views and values of their parents. The childhood years are very important in forming one’s identity and beliefs. In the story A Rose for Emily Miss Emily Grierson’s upbringing had a huge impact on her. She was raised by her father who is described as a typical gentleman of the old south; he was proud of his high status and considered the Griersons superior to the other townspeople. Mr. Grierson had a dominating and controlling effect on Miss Emily’s life. The townspeople thought of their relationship as a picture: “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door.” (Faulkner 205). This image shows that Emily’s father was overly dominating and threatened his daughter to stay in the past. Emily’s “slender figure” (205) suggests that her father barely noticed her opinions and desires; he considered her views to be irrelevant and unimportant.

With her father in charge of her life, Miss Emily had little say in what happened to her; she was not taught independence, self-confidence or self-worth. The “spraddled silhouette” (205) of her father proves that he had control over Emily and made all the decisions for her. Miss Emily was restricted from courting because her father claimed that none of the suitors were good enough for her or her family. The Miss Emily’s figure dressed in white further confirms her purity and absence of any relationships with men. Mr. Grierson’s dominance and intimidation of Emily is represented by the horsewhip in his hand. He was forcing her to stay “in the background” (205) or in the past, when the Grierson name was highly respected in the town of Jefferson. Since “the two of them were framed by the back-flung front door” (205) Miss Emily seems to be trying to escape the control of her father and wants to move into the future with the rest of the town. However, her father’s views are attached to her and stop her from accepting change and the new things outside the door.

Even after the death of her father, Miss Emily was constantly reminded to follow the ways of the Old South “with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly” (210) from the portrait before the fireplace. Thus, alive and dead, Miss Emily’s father had a decisive effect on her life. Similar influence of a parent is seen in the story by D. H. Lawrence The Rocking-Horse Winner. Paul’s vulnerable mind was tainted with the distorted paradigms of his mother. He grew up in household that was constantly lacking money, as well as love and support of the parents. Paul’s mother was an incompetent parent because she was cold and unloving. “At the centre of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love” (Lawrence 76). Hester considered her children as an obligation; she “felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them” (75). The mother does not perceive love and family as necessities for happiness, associating luck with money and materialistic objects.

According to the Freudian concepts, the mother can be described as the superego because she has already formed her morals, although twisted. Her distorted paradigm took over the whole house “and so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money!” (76). Paul is tainted with his mother’s neglect for love and family, her obsessive money-orientated nature and uncontrollable greed. Since the mother passes down her misconceptions to her child, Paul acquires similar characteristics of his mother’s obsession. Both A Rose for Emily and The Rocking-Horse Winner show how parenting influences the children’s perception of life and society.

Children tainted by misconceptions and distorted paradigms of their parents may develop obsession which leads to deterioration of their mental state. Adopting his mother’s obsession with money, Paul strives to fix the financial problem in the household at all costs. Ever since he learned from his mother that luck “causes you to have money” (77), he went off desperately seeking for luck. Deprived of his mother’s affection, the young boy hopes that providing enough money for her expensive needs will make her softer and more attentive to her children. “This angered him somewhat, and made him want to compel her attention” (78) shows that Paul has developed an attraction to his opposite sex parent, which Freud defines as the oedipus complex. The renoun psychologist believes that the oedipus complex can have a great impact on one’s personality depending on how it is dealt with. As the mother did not show affection towards her son, Paul relies on the rocking-horse to release sexual tension. Desperate to compensate fro his mother’s lack of affection, Paul develops obsessive compulsion and loses control of his mental state. “He wanted luck, he wanted it, he wanted it” (78).

His strong desire slowly destroys his mind and caused Paul to hallucinate about the rocking-horse. He believes that his rocking-horse can take him to where luck is. “Now take me to where luck is! Now take me!” (78). Paul’s unhealthy obsession is seen in his “furious rides” (78) on the horse. “Wildly the horse careered, … his eyes had a strange glare in them” (78). Motivated by his primal instincts, Paul becomes overpowered by his compulsion to have money. Paul loses his mind and awareness; he neglects his well-being and spends all his energy on the rocking-horse. “He grew more and more tense … he was very frail, and his eyes were really uncanny” (87). Paul’s delusion and obsessive compulsion drove him crazy and eventually lead to his death. “Madly surging on the rocking-horse … he fell with a crash to the ground” (88).

Although in A Rose for Emily Miss Emily’s obsession does not cause her death, it still has a huge negative impact on her life. Emily Grierson adopted the excessive pride of her father and became obsessed with keeping the influential position of her family in the town of Jefferson. “It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson” (207). Even when the new generation came to power changing the social structure and castes of the Old South, Miss Emily still acted as if the Grierson name was significant. Her arrogance and disrespect for the new laws is clearly portrayed in her conversation with the druggist. Miss Emily demanded arsenic without giving the reason, as the law requires. Although the druggist tried to convince her to obey the law, she did not feel obligated to follow the advice of a lower class member of society. She felt superior to the druggist and considered her aristocratic status to be above the law. Miss Emily also refused to pay taxes applicable for all the townspeople.

“I have no taxes in Jefferson” (204) shows that Miss Emily is haughty and believes herself to be an exceptional member of Jefferson community. Struggling to maintain her family’s once-influential status in the transformed society, Miss Emily becomes absorbed in her desire to appear important. She rejects the new things around her and refuses to let go of the past. “”See Colonel Sartoris.” (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.)” (204). Her mental health weakens causing her to believe the wishful fantasies of her mind. Miss Emily, eventually, loses her mind secluding herself from society and living an eccentric life with the dead body of her suitor, Homer Barron. The two stories exhibit how one’s unhappy childhood may lead to the development of destructive obsession.

Unhealthy obsession leads to social isolation. Preoccupied with desires, one finds no time for others. Emily Grierson’s obsession with the pride of her family and the Old South isolated her from the townspeople. She was different from others because she came from a once-wealthy and influential family. Emily’s attitude towards the poor people showed how she felt superior to them: “she carried her head high enough” (207). Consequently, the townspeople came to dislike her and excluded her from their community. They turn their backs on her, and her sufferings even seem to bring them joy. After the death of Emily’s father, the townspeople thought that “[Miss Emily] had become humanized” because of her pain and sufferings (206). Although Emily’s father limited her in many ways, he also provided for her and was a companion in her life. When he died, Emily did not have enough money to pay for her expenses. Thus, she became equal to the poor people, and now “she too would know the old thrill and the despair of a penny more or less” (206).

Although the townspeople pity her, they do not offer to help her because they lack concern towards her problems. Her long-term illness and her withdrawal at home appear to be some kind of amusement, since her problems have become a subject for everyday gossip. The townspeople know about Emily’s pain and sufferings; they gossips about it, but no one does anything to help her. When the town found out that Emily bought poison, they thought, “She will kill herself” (208). Not only did they not do anything to prevent that, but they also believed that “it would be the best thing “(208). It would be their chance to get rid of her. This proves that the townspeople thought that Miss Emily was an imperfection in their town and believed that their society would be better off without her. The townspeople isolated her because of her extreme pride and caused her to live a peculiar and lonely life. Just like Emily’s obsession with her high status lead to her seclusion, Paul’s isolation was caused by his obsession with luck and gambling.

Paul became so absorbed in his search for luck, that he was deprived of friends and strong bonds with his family. “Absorbed, taking no heed of the people, he went about with a sort of stealth, seeking inwardly for luck” (78) proves that Paul was consumed by his strong desire to find luck. He did not notice other people around him and did not want them to notice him. Paul secluded himself from others; he lived in a world of his own and did not want to be bothered. “He would speak to nobody when he was in full tilt” (79). Paul had little love and attention from his parents; from an early age he got used to being ignored. Thus, having no friends did not worry him. “The little girls dared not speak to him” (78) shows that they considered him different from themselves. He was unlike the other children because while his sisters engaged in their childish play, Paul would be engrossed in the financial problems of adults. His different priorities cased him to become isolated from his sisters and the other children.

His only companion was the rocking-horse with its red mouth slightly open and its big glassy-bright eyes widely staring (78). The possessive eyes of the rocking-horse suggest hypnosis of the boy and the slightly open mouth implies the horse consuming Paul’s sanity. The author uses numerous references to eyes in his story. All emotions of the characters are expressed through the eyes. Therefore, just like the boy knows his mother does not love him through her eyes, the horse’s eyes greatly influence him. Paul mentally joins himself to the horse and keeps the true reason for this attachment a secret. This further secludes him from others and makes it impossible to cure his obsession. Eventually, Paul retreats to his room with his rocking-horse, similarly to Miss Emily, who locks up with Homer Barron in her old house. Thus, in both stories the characters become isolated because of their obsession.

Obsessive compulsion causes escape into a delusional world and detachment from reality. As Paul’s obsession developed, he became further drawn into his fantasy. The rocking-horse winner became his only companion and consumed him into the world of illusion. Paul, functioning as the id according to Freudian psychology, could not distinguish between reality and what exists in his mind. Using the primary process, which forms wish-fulfilling images of one’s desires, Paul imagined being lucky. He wanted to fix the financial problem in the household no matter the consequences. As a result, Paul became “absorbed” (78) in his fantasy. The reality of the household “frightened Paul terribly” (85), where as on the rocking-horse he was able to escape the horrors of the haunting house and the coldness of his mother. The imaginary world that Paul created inside his mind allowed him to detach from reality and transfer into his fantasy. In reality Paul is seen as a small insignificant child deprived of his mother’s love.

In his fantasy Paul perceives himself as a savior of the family because he is lucky. Paul becomes so preoccupied with this fantasy that he loses contact with reality and forgets about his happiness as a child. Consequently, Paul’s obsession with luck caused his mental imprisonment and detachment from reality. Just like Paul, Miss Emily Grierson becomes absorbed in her imaginary world rejecting the reality. Since Miss Emily was obsessed with keeping her family’s once influential status, she chose to live in the past ignoring the passing of time. Miss Emily, just like Paul, functions as the id because she fails to differentiate her fantasies from reality. For example, she believes that Colonel Sartoris, who in fact has been dead for ten years, is still the mayor of Jefferson. Miss Emily’s old house symbolizes her decision to live in the past as if nothing changed, denying the new things around her. Her rejection of the changed reality is represented by her old fashioned house “lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay” above the modern buildings.

Alike her house, Miss Emily was stubborn and dismissed all the new things brought by the new generation; she did not renovate her house according to the innovative standards, she refused to pay the taxes established by the new city officials, and she turned down the offer of the free postal delivery. Miss Emily refuses to change with the town because her family once dominated it, and change means thather family may not be the center of attention anymore. To stop the new things from affecting her life, Miss Emily submerges into a world of her imagination where time is at a standstill. Miss Emily’s fantasy is represented by the hidden watch at the end of “a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt” (203). “They could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain” (204) proves that the townspeople of Jefferson noticed the passing of time and were affected by the changes that came with it.

Miss Emily, on the other hand, chose to hide the watch, which symbolizes her desire to live in the past. Hiding the time and rejecting changes, Miss Emily shields herself from the present to preserve the past when the Grierson family was significant and respected in the town. Just like Paul in The Rocking-Horse Winner, she separates herself from the reality and becomes absorbed into the fantasy world of her own. Therefore, the two stories prove that obsession can cause detachment from reality.

The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence and A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner show how children, who are influenced by the opinions of their parents, can develop serious mental problems. Essentially, childhood shapes one’s identity and perspective on life. Since young children quickly absorb new knowledge, distorted views of their parents are easily passed on. Adopting the parents’ misconceptions, children may develop obsessive characteristics. Obsessive compulsion to live up to the parents’ expectations causes the children to disregard their own happiness and mental state. As one becomes absorbed in one’s desires, obsession often leads to mental imprisonment. Obsessive individuals may become delusional and develop their own world. They usually live secluded lives with little or no friends because they are too preoccupied with their fantasies. Eventually they lose control of their mental state and become completely detached from reality. Proper parenting is crucial to ensure a child’s well-being because without the feeling that someone loves and cares for you, anyone could become emotionally disturbed, especially as a small child.

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