Readers Response Criticism
“Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily’s father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying” (shmoop.com). William Faulkner was born in 1897, and raised by his family in the south near Oxford Mississippi. He was a member of the British and Canadian air force during his time, and got his education from the University of Mississippi. This story is mainly about Emily’s belief that she can’t let go of people even when they’re dead. Using reader response criticism, the reader can analyze William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” through moral, secrets, and anthropology.
The first way William Faulkner uses reader response criticism is for people to understand the moral of the story. For example, “That was two years after her father’s death and a short time after her sweet heart had deserted her” (Faulkner). This part of the story is explaining how she is really sad, and misses her father and her old sweet heart a lot. Not only does she feel depressed from these events, but she also is very angry that these events had occurred. Throughout the entire story the people from the town tried to Converse with her, but she always rejected the people and closed her door. She never answered back any of the letters that the town gave her to pay her taxes, which really teaches the reader that she feels that she doesn’t deserve to pay the taxes, due to her father’s help he gave the town years before he died. In the story it also says, “She told them her father was not dead” (Faulkner), which shows the reader that she was having a hard time realizing that he was actually gone. Every reader can connect with some kind of a loss just like she had, and not realize that the death had actually occurred. The fact that her father was dead was not getting into her head, and every reader has definitely felt the same way.
The next way William Faulkner uses reader response for his readers is by giving the text secrets/hidden messages in the story. Doing this will not only make the reader have to think about everything that happened in the story, but also give the reader a chance to try and read behind the lines of the story. For example, “A slender figure in white in the background, her father a straddled silhouette” (Faulkner). The text from the story leaves the reader with a mystery about Emily’s father and his way of life. This also reveals that her father is a very strict man, and wants to prevent people from hurting his daughter. The picture in her house points out to the reader that her family is crazy, and she has a very overbearing father. At times that can be a good thing though because she had protection from her father that scared off all of the hooligans in town. The story also says, “Send her word to have her place cleaned up” (Faulkner), which shows that her house must be a real wreck. The secret about this text is that the reader doesn’t really know why the house smells repulsive. When the people in the town have to inform the owner of the house that it really smells, then the reader knows that it must be terrible. In the story the town people run around her lawn squeezing limes and lemons to try and get rid of the smell. As the story says after about a month or two the smell finally goes away, which means she either got the message from the town, or they just did a good job.
Finally, William Faulkner uses reader response criticism by introducing anthropology into this story. Anthropology is the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humans. In the story it says, “The people in the town expect the wedding is called off” (Faulkner), which leaves the reader with the response of what did someone do wrong? Humans can be very confusing and at times very bizarre, just in reaction to something bad happening. This situation gives the reader question on whether the race or gender of the people can change something due to discrimination. As the story also says, “The man himself lay in the bed” (Faulkner), this quote is explaining about the fact that the man had been killed by Emily. She couldn’t let go of her loved one so she left him lay in her bed with her for all of those years after he died. This quote could give the reader something to think about gender. Is it maybe just girls who have a hard to letting go of a loved one? Homer was found dead, and it was assumed that Emily had killed him with arsenic.
Through moral, secrets, and anthropology William Faulkner was able to give the readers a response for criticism from the story “A Rose for Emily”. The reader can learn from this story that it can be hard at times to let a loved one go, but they must realize it could be for the better. The reader must also learn that they can’t live forever, and that they can’t just give up when it gets to rough. The story shows great significance about the fact that when it is someone’s time to go they must just follow the plan and leave happy. Never hold on to something that was once lost before or great consequences can occur for that person.