Essay On Changing Times Paper

Published: 2021-09-07 01:20:15
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Category: A Rose For Emily

Type of paper: Essay

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The fast pace of the modern age is hard to ignore.  As time seemed to speed up, a battle arose between those wishing to push forward into the future and those wishing to hold on to the past.  William Faulkner captured this struggle over changing times in the short story, “A Rose for Emily.”  Through its time-bending narration, symbolic portrayal of Emily, and descriptive language, Faulkner’s story of a small Southern town and its strange resident displays the changes society faces in the modern world.Faulkner’s narration of the story is unique in itself.  His choice of first person plural gives the feeling of a present community discussing the past.  The use of “we” in the narration also incorporates the reader into the story, almost as if they are part of the action and the community observing the dusty world of Emily.  The narrator often notes the old-time ways of Miss Emily when describing her.  Starting with her funeral, the narrator flashes back in time and examines the events that lead up to Emily’s death.  The framing of the story in this way builds a greater sense of suspense and helps show that the story is really an expose on time and how people react to it.  This narration technique gives the feeling that Emily’s story is almost a legend among the townspeople, and seems to make it a commonly known legend or myth.  By the time narrator mentions the mysterious smell coming from Emily’s house and then takes the reader back thirty years, the mystery surrounding Emily is too powerful to ignore or avoid.  Faulkner’s later narrative descriptions also call to mind the elements of time and its passing.Miss Emily Grierson is a relic of the past.  From the introduction of the story, she is described by the narration as “a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894.”  She is the past that the present leaves behind, keeping only as a memory or story.  Emily’s house is described in a way that clearly describes the passage of time, as it “smelled of dust and disuse—a closed, dank smell,” with “faint dust” covering her furniture.  This picture of Emily’s house gives a good idea of the world she lives in.  Not only is Emily portrayed as a relic of the past, but she is the past in decay.  She represents all the old beliefs that younger generations abandon.  When she is visited after her father dies by “the next generation, with its more modern ideas,” she refuses to accept their new rules, instead citing an old agreement with Colonel Sartoris, who had also been dead for years.  When the present visits Emily, she denies it.  This meeting is the present confronting the past, and Miss Emily is left frozen in time, even though time passes on around her.The descriptive language that Faulkner uses throughout the story reinforces the gap between the past and the present.  Miss Emily is referred to by the narrator as nothing more than a “fallen monument,” perhaps because her death also marked the death of a certain old sensibility.  Her house also stood as a monument to the past with it “lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps–an eyesore among eyesores.”  The language that Faulkner uses to describe the ideals that Emily represents shows that they are still desirable compared to the ugliness of unchecked progress as with gas stations.  However, Faulkner’s physical descriptions of Emily also give the impression of something abused and in decay:  “She looked bloated like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that palled hue.”  Emily is described as fat in stature, while in her picture with her father she is lean.  Her weight gain could be Faulkner’s way of saying that the modern world has become lazy and set in its ways, without caring one bit whether what it values is right or wrong, productive or wasteful.  As a representation of the past, the world of Emily falls our of favor and, “the newer generation became the backbone and spirit of the town.”  The cycle of life and time sees the new replace the old, and this new generation is best represented in the character of Homer Barron.Homer’s name suggests many things, from robber barons, Ancient Greece, to possibly suggesting the chance that he might be homosexual.  Homer represents the present with an eye on the future, ambitious, yet not adhering to the ideals of Emily’s past.  By killing Homer and not allowing him to desert her, Emily seems to conquer the present.  She is the past swallowing up the present, and if effect, the future.  Though her world is largely a fantasy, she manages to maintain a world in which time cannot interfere and the present does not matter.  The long gray hair located next to Homer’s corpse near the end of the story gives a good indication of the longing Emily felt to be in the present, but her inability to actually do it.  Homer was her flower pressed in the pages of a book.For all intents and purposes, Miss Emily manages to defeat time by living in the world of the past, at least until death came for her.  In her world, she denied death and the passage of time, as shown by how she reacted to the deaths of her father, the Colonel, and finally Homer.  Despite knowing that death exists, she tries to deny it to maintain tradition and her own personal desires.  Because Emily eventually died without ever acknowledging the outside world of the present, this proved that the reality of the present could not be denied.  Faulkner seems to suggest that the modern world also denies the realities of the present, and stands the chance of being destroyed by mistakes of the past.  With Emily dead, her timeless world is invaded by the occupants of the present.  She becomes nothing more than a quaint piece of history, and her funeral represents the death of a simpler time:“…with the town coming to look at Miss Emily beneath amass of bought flowers, with the crayon face of her fathermusing profoundly above the bier and the ladies sibilant andmacabre; and the very old men –some in their brushedConfederate uniforms–on the porch and the lawn, talking ofMiss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs,believing that they had danced with her and courted herperhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression,as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishingroad but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter everquite touches, divided from them now by the narrowbottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.” Like the belief in chivalry and honor that seemed to disappear with the modern age, Miss Emily’s simpler beliefs die with her.  The old Confederate men at the funeral represent the fading connection to that past, and perhaps Faulkner’s reminder that the mistakes of the past continue to be made, like war and prejudice.  The romantic views the soldiers have of Miss Emily seem humorous after all the reader knows all about her.  But, their view of history and time knows less of the present and focuses on the huge meadow that makes up their life in memories.  Like Emily, they remain locked in a time that will never change.The passage of time and the battle between the past and the present are key to “A Rose for Emily.”  More than a story about a strange woman that murders men, or a small town that gossips about an odd neighbor, the story is a representation of the forces that create change, and the forces that oppose it.  It is the examination of time and suggests that no one can escape it, whether they try to or not.  Regardless of whether one freely accepts change or denies it, time stops for no one and death visits everyone.  As the narrator observes these changes, characters like Homer try to create them, and Emily denies them.  But, in the end, they all end up in the same place, and so will the narrator of the story — “we.”

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