A Rose For Emily
“After her father’s death, she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly say her at all (Faulkner).
” An unnamed narrator details the strange circumstances of Emily’s life and her odd relationships with her father, her lover, and the town of Jefferson, and the horrible secret she hides. Using reader response criticism, a reader can analyze “A Rose for Emily” using the aspects of race, gender, and secrets. To begin with, Faulkner uses the aspect of race clearly within the short story. An example of this is Miss Emily’s servant, Tobe. Judge Stevens calls him “…that n***** of hers…” (Faulkner). The purpose this serves is that it shows how blacks were dehumanized in that time period.
The only person in the story who refers to Tobe with a name is Miss Emily herself. Even more, the narrator also refers to him by a title based on his race in the line, “They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow” (Faulkner). Again this shows the role of race in society at the time when Tobe isn’t given the respect to be called by name and Miss Emily is shown great respect by the whole town. To continue, the aspect of gender is also clear in the short story. Faulkner doesn’t seem to like women based on how he portrays them in the text. For example, he said, “Only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and thought could have invented it” (Faulkner).
By saying this, Faulkner makes his feelings clear that he believes that men are smarter than women. This is true because he thinks only a man could have thought of an excuse to keep Emily from paying taxes as well as Colonel Sartoris’ story. Not only does he believe men are smarter, he believes that women aren’t intelligent in general. He continues to say, “…and only a woman could have believed it” (Faulkner). This further proves Faulkner’s ideas that men are superior because here he says that women are gullible and believe whatever story they are told.
Finally, the aspect of secrets is also very important to “A Rose for Emily”. Faulkner uses secrets throughout the short story for many purposes. One example is where Miss Emily said, “I want arsenic” (Faulkner). Miss Emily refuses to tell the pharmacist why she wants the arsenic against his rules but he gives it to her anyway because she is respected. This is important because it is used as foreshadowing for when Miss Emily murders Homer Barron later in the play. Another example that relates to this is when Faulkner says, “And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron” (Faulkner).
At the time the townspeople assume that Homer Barron left town with freewill. In reality this line serves as foreshadowing because later in the story it is revealed that Miss Emily murdered Homer that night and kept him with her so he wasn’t able to leave town. In conclusion, the aspects of race, gender, and secrets help the reader analyze “A Rose for Emily” using reader response criticism. One can learn not to be attached to things or people. One can also learn the role of gender and race in society.