Miss Emily Grierson, the main character in William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily," is certainly strange by any average reader’s standards and a character analysis of Emily could go in any number of directions. It is nearly impossible not to examine her in a psychological as well as contextual light. Over the course of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, Miss Emily’s erratic and idiosyncratic behavior becomes outright bizarre, and the reader, like the townspeople in the story, is left wondering how to explain the fact that Miss Emily has spent years living and sleeping with the corpse of Homer Barron. According to the narrator in one of the important quotes from “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner the townspeople “did not say she was crazy" at first (Faulkner 2162), and of course, she was never evaluated, diagnosed, or treated by a mental health professional. Yet by the story’s conclusion, the reader can go back through the narrative and identify many episodes in which Miss Emily’s character and behavior hinted at the possibility of a mental illness, even if the town wanted to deny this fact and leave her intact as a social idol. In fact, this information could be used to support the claim that Miss Emily suffered from schizophrenia as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV criteria (American Psychiatric Association 159). It is reasonable to propose that Miss Emily developed this mental illness as a response to the demanding conditions in which she was living as a Southern woman from an aristocratic family. Miss Emily decompensated because she was unable to develop healthy and adaptive coping and defense mechanisms. While most people can handle the kinds of stressors Miss Emily faced, those who cannot develop psychotic symptoms in response to their situation.Diagnosing a mental illness is often a challenging task, and one that implies a great deal of responsibility on the part of the mental health professional who assesses the patient and determines the diagnosis (American Psychiatric Association 5). Among the numerous variables that a clinician considers are the patient’s prior history. In the case of Miss Emily, an analysis of the setting and the other characters in the story, as well as an examination of some of the themes in “A Rose for Emily” and especially incidents involving Miss Emily’s father, helps the reader to understand the particular pressures with which Emily was trying to cope and how, by extension, she might have developed schizophrenia. Miss Emily was from a family of great stature and wealth in their small Southern community, and Miss Emily had always been burdened with the great expectations that others had of her. Her community viewed her as having a “hereditary obligation" (Faulkner 2160) to maintain certain traditions, traditions that had been established generations before her. Her father, charged with transmitting these traditions and values to Miss Emily, was rigid in reinforcing these expectations, and in the words of the narrator, the father was a man who had “thwarted her woman’s life so many times" (Faulkner 2164). Just one example of his behavior was that he drove all of Miss Emily’s suitors away because none were perceived as good enough for her. As a result, she never married.
Despite his oppressiveness, it is when her father dies that the reader begins to observe the acceleration of Miss Emily’s mental decline. While this phenomenon may seem paradoxical, it is not at all uncommon. When the ill individual suddenly no longer has to cope with managing external stressors, their defenses yield completely and they succumb to the psychotic symptoms that have been latent (Staton 275). The narrator observes that after her father’s death and her subsequent breakdown, Miss Emily was “sick for a long time," though he does not offer more specific details as to the type of illness that she suffers (Faulkner 2162). It is also at this time that Miss Emily begins to avoid contact with others and other psychotic symptoms become evident. Immediately after the death of her father, the ladies of the town come to Miss Emily’s home to offer their condolences, and they observe that she had “no trace of grief on her face" (Faulkner 2162). The inability to either feel or demonstrate appropriate affect, or emotion, that is congruent to a particular situation is one of the classic symptoms of schizophrenia (American Psychiatric Association 147). Perhaps more tellingly, Miss Emily insisted to the visitors that “her father was not dead" (Faulkner 2162). For this reason, she would not permit his body to be removed until “she broke down" and the townspeople removed the body quickly before she could protest (Faulkner 2162).
Despite this and other evidence that Miss Emily is not emotionally or mentally well, the townspeople persist in enabling her to maintain her delusions. In fact, their denial is almost as pathological as Miss Emily’s own symptoms. The townspeople avoid confronting Miss Emily about any important concerns, such as the terrible smell that is emanating from her home, which itself is becoming more “detached, superseded, and forbidding" (Stone 87) every day. While the newer generation of townspeople advocates addressing the matter with Miss Emily directly, Judge Stevens responds to this suggestion in a rage, saying, in one of theimportant quotes from “A Rose for Emily” “Dammit, sir…will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?", as if the smell was merely a body odor rather than a pervasive stench (Faulkner 2162). The younger generation relents, and the men responsible for such local concerns sneak into Miss Emily’s basement surreptitiously to spread lime as an effort to eliminate the odor.
MLA style is a lot scarier than it sounds. Basically, you are going to write the essay like you always have, but you have to make sure to have certain features. MLA style is just describing how the essay is formatted.
First of all, you are writing a literary analysis. If you are not sure what to write about, theme is always a great place to start. Choose a theme from the story and explain how it is developed. For example, a theme in “A Rose for Emily” might be death’s impact on life. You could describe how death is described and how it impacts the characters. See link 1 for a discussion of themes in the story.
In writing MLA style, you will need to set your paper up in a specific way. I have included a reference link (link 2). You have to have header, which is your last name and the page number, in the upper right hand side of the page. To get the header in Microsoft Word, you just double click the very top of the page or choose “View: Header and Footer.”
You also need a heading. A heading is different than a header. It is on the left side of the page. You might write in this order.
Your name (however your teacher wants it)
Date (however your teacher wants it)
Then you have a title on the next line. Center the title, and write it in title case, but to do underline, italicize, or bold it. Try to come up with a clever title. Don’t just write “Essay” or “A Rose for Emily” for the title. Something like: ‘The Impact of Death in “A Rose for Emily”’ is better.
Now, you need to make sure you have MLA approved fonts. Your teacher may have a preference, but usually Times New Roman 12 pt font is the safest bet. You need to double space your essay. You can do that by selecting all and right clicking, then choose “paragraph” or you can go to “Format: Paragraph.” It will vary based on the version of Microsoft Word or if you are using another program.
Next, you will need to include a Works Cited page. You can just type the book or story into a bibliography web site, like the one in link 3. Make sure you properly cite every source you used. If you quote the enotes page I showed you, you need to cite it to. You need to cite using page numbers within your text. For example, let’s say you used this quote. I will use this version.
It should be cited like this:
Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily." Resources. Melbourne High School, 29 Jan. 2007. Web. 15 Oct.
Notice that there is what is called a hanging indent, meaning the second line is indented.
Within my text, I need to use citations for page numbers. This PDF file has page numbers, fortunately. I am going to find a good quote about death. I will use part of the powerful first sentence as an example.
“When Miss Emily Griersen died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through respectful attention to a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see her house” (1).
Notice that I put the page number at the end of the quote in parenthesis, and only the number. I also put the period after the parenthesis, and the quotation marks are only around the quote. It goes quotation marks, quote, quotation marks, parenthesis, page number, parenthesis, period.