A Rose for Emily Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis teaches that ignorance “is not a passive state of absence-a basic lack of details: it is an active dynamic of negation, an active rejection of info” (Felman 29-30). The isolation of signifying elements is traditionally the province of formalist criticism, which defines (after the New Criticism) that we keep in mind viewpoint or images or metaphor in our analysis. The interpretation of these aspects, the making of indicating out of them, then depends on the context or technique of interpretation we use to them.
Hence we can easily see why a representing elementlike the figure of the daddy in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”-has a lot of various significances. Do we interpret him historically as a metaphor of Southern manhood? Emotionally as the reason for Emily’s neurosis? In a feminist context as a sign of the patriarchal repression of liberty and desire? Do any of these meanings seem more thorough than the others in accounting for the other symbolizing components of the text? What procedures would we follow in evaluating the significance of these interpretations, or in attempting to connect them together?
The political variation of Lacanian analysis appears peculiarly well-suited to Faulkner’s texts, in that they so demonstrably include the positional disputes of masters and servants, aristocrats and hillbillies, patriarchs and children in anguished narratives that dramatize our historical options of what and how to value. Whereas a conventional psychological reading may stress Miss Emily’s “madness” or “hysteria,” a Lacanian one would focus upon her position in a community of structuring organizations.
As Judith Fetterley has actually shown, “it is a story of a woman taken advantage of and betrayed by the system of sexual politics” (351, or in Faulkner’s own words the tale of a young girl “brow-beaten and kept down by her daddy, a selfish male who didn’t want her to leave house since he desired a house cleaner” (Gwynn and Blotner 185). Miss Emily’s position is most graphically represented in a reminiscence of the genealogy of her spinsterhood: None of the young men were quite sufficient for Miss Emily and such.
We had long thought of them as a tableau; Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled shape in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. (437 My option of example, however, somewhat belies the simpleness of my model, given that it is the vital framework that dictates which signifying aspects we discover and interpret. Would I, in the absence of psychoanalysis or feminism, stop and contemplate at such length that paternal, stationary body obstructing Emily’s access to society and sexuality?
And how will these viewpoints impact my choice over whether this Emily (like Emily Dickinson) is a madwoman in the attic or a victim of patriarchal culture? These are questions which trainees can, and should, find out to ask. “A Rose for Emily,” in its final Gothic nightmare of repression and necrophilia, define a tale of the Name-of-the-Father as a prohibition and perversity of desire, and Emily’s homicidal union as a symbolic resolution of her feminist outrage and sexual longing. The narrative viewpoint in “A Rose for Emily” puts us in a weird position.
It is “our town,” and our position towards Emily is initially that of the narrator and the neighborhood. They are the topic who is expected to understand, however this posthumous narrative turns on their absence of knowledge-an absence that leads to a corpse and to what Emily’s life has actually lacked. Pedagogically. an analysis of this narrative temporality must pose specific concerns: why is this tale informed after the truth? what gap in the town’s understanding of Emily does the narrative set out to correct? how is the curious structure of this investigator narrative comparable to an act of voyeurism, and part of the town’s longstanding prurient interest towards Emily?
An effort lo interpret the absence of knowledge that inspires this story, then, will open conversation of the correspondences between the represented themes and characters of the story, on the one hand, and the way of representation on the other. What the narrator and the town don’t know is the answer to Freud’s popular concern: “What do ladies desire?” In recommending lady’s desire, as Colonel Sartoris and Emily’s daddy do, the patriarchal subject composes of his own lack, predicted as the “castration” of female, which returns to haunt him in the poisoned figure of Emily’s enthusiast, Homer Barron.
This none-too-subtle name symbolizes the lack of love in Emily’s home and the sterility of patriarchal structures. Fetterley remarkably summarizes the tale’s conclusion: When the would-be “suitors” lastly get into her dad’s home, they discover the consequences of his injustice of her, for the violence included in the decayed remains of Homer Barron is the mirror image of the violence represented in the tableau, the back-flung front door flung back with a vengeance. Having actually been taken in by her dad, Emily in turns feeds off Homer Barron, ending up being, after his death, suspiciously fat.
Or, to put it another method, it is as if, after her dad’s death, she has actually reversed his act of incorporating her by integrating and becoming him, metamorphosedfrom the slender figure in white to the overweight figure in black whose hair is “a vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active guy.” She has taken into herself the violence that thwarted her and has actually reenacted it upon Homer Barron. (42-43) As Faulkner displays in The Bear,” man’s desire to own and control nature, females, and other races ends up being the desire for death, for completion of his own absence.
In acting out the Lacanian formula that desire is always the desire of the Other, Emily revenges herself by identifying with Man’s desire, by including the Father, by giving him what he wants. In penetrating Emily’s house to discover the “reality” about her, our male storyteller really dramatizes the reality of male desire in an anxious discourse that reveals the castration worry signifying Man’s own lack. To ask what Emily wants appears, with Freud, almost inconceivable, and it is her point of view, her position, that becomes the most challenging, and needed, for us to occupy.
And this can be no simple identification, because, as Penley argues, “each individual ‘exists’ just as a nexus of numerous and in some cases contradictory subjectivities which are legislated or presumed, either knowingly or unconsciously” (144 ). As a topic of racial and class discourses, the figure of Emily is more than a “woman,” and so the reader should withstand a reading that is “just” feminist. Here, then, is where we discover what Fetterley’s interpretation is lacking, for in including her daddy’s desire Emily embraces a subjective position-that of the patriarchal master-that in truth has actually been a constitutive part of her character the whole time.
Emily is not merely the feminist subject (or victim), as Fetterley’s reading typically suggests (its slogan could be “Spinsterhood is powerful! “); Emily is likewise, contradictorily, related to the enforcers of subjection, as a train of imagery and incident programs. Her fate’s connection to the Civil War is indicated by her burial site “amongst the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers” (433 ).
Concerns about her position in the town lead not only to her prison-like home, however to the odd information that link her fate to those of the blacks. We learn, for example, that she is a “sort of genetic responsibility upon the town” since “that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor- he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman need to appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes” (433 ). The date suggests a coincidence of Miss Emily’s injustice and the introduction of the Jim Crow laws.
This parenthetical aside functions like a slip of the tongue to reveal what Faulkner is frequently at discomforts to explore-the fundamental example in between the patriarchal subjection of females and blacks, condensed in the image of that determined apron which is “fathered” by Sartoris, and which simultaneously signals racial, sexual, and class differences with a fig-leaf like coverup. Though Fetterley quotes this exact same passage, she never ever, from her feminist point of view, sees that the lady is black, nor does her reading ever point out the other blacks in the story.
In discussing Emily’s shadowy “Negro” servant (whose race she doesn’t observe either), Fetterley sees his domestic work as a disturbing of sexual stereotypes, when in fact it is principally a perpetuation of racial and class roles, a social structure also embodied by the home Emily presides over. The servant’s name is Tobe, a punning appellation that echoes Hamlet in signifying the black man’s split being and the delayed futurity of hisachievement of any licensed subjectivity.
Such subjection is actually business of Homer Barron, a construction company foreman who, like the plantation overseer, disciplines the “niggers and mules and equipment” (438 ). Though he is a Yankee, Barron actually perpetuates that racial and class patriarchy connected with the South, as Faulkner pointedly indicates: “The little young boys would follow in groups to hear him cuss the niggers, and the niggers singing in time to the rise and fall of choices” (439 ). The class snobbery of Emily’s disdainful townsfolk, who deride her romance, shows their own protective repression f the truth that the Master’s power relies on, and is embodied in, the work of the overseers and servants. Their condemnation of Emily’s affair recommends their own desire to sustain the delusory distinctions of race and class at exactly the historical moment when such differences-and the identities they uphold-are collapsing: the imposition of the Jim Crow laws set up partition as the ideological and administrative antidote to slavery’s abolition. Distancing himself from the past, the narrator scrupulously utilizes the nominal “Negro” for the manservant, who ages with Emily and vanishes at her death.
Maybe freed, Tobe’s fate stays odd, as is particular of Faulkner’s apocalyptic representations of the black race’s future at the end of books such as The Sound and the Fury, Absalorn, Absalom!, and Go Down, Moses. Emily Grierson, then, provides a hermeneutic puzzle. As feminist subject her story speaks of an advanced subversion of patriarchy: as herself a figure of racial and class power, Emily also enacts the love affair of patriarchy with its own past, despite all the signs of decrease and destruction.
She is a split topic, crossed by competing discourses. What the text forces us to think, then, is the complex and ironic alliance in between modes of possession and subjection, desire and ownership, identity and position. Considerations of the subjects of race, class, and gender will each yield a different reading of the text, and we will be hard put to totalize them or reconcile their contradictions. A similar puzzle emerged when I was teaching Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. There it was black men, instead of white ladies, who were split by inconsistent subjective positions.
In regards to race they were subjected to white power, as prizefighter Buster Broadnax is helpless to help Sophia when she is beaten by the cops for punching the mayor’s better half. In terms of gender the black males subject their own ladies to physical and sexual violence that occurs in rough percentage to their own social and economic emasculation. No single viewpoint will represent their divided position. Scherting argues that Emily eliminates Homer since she “was never ever allowed to outgrow her Oedipal accessory to her daddy and …
Homer was, libidinally, a surrogate for her dad” (400 ). Holland states that Emily’s “cruel murder of Homer appears simply the example her father would do; I feel she has included much of her daddy’s brutality in herself” (28 ). According to Dennis W. Allen, “Emily’s murder of Homer is … an attempt to forestall his loss through death” (688 ). Scherting argues that Emily kills Homer due to the fact that she “was never ever allowed to outgrow her Oedipal attachment to her daddy and …
Homer was, libidinally, a surrogate for her dad” (400 ). Holland states that Emily’s “cruel murder of Homer seems just the example her father would do; I feel she has actually incorporated much of her father’s brutality in herself” (28 ). Sniderman, Stephen L. “The Tabloidization of Emily.” Journal 10-6. 2 (Spring 2002): 177-201. Rpt. in other words Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 97. Detroit: Windstorm, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 July 2010.
Peter Hayes chooses a more engaging prospect for Emily Grierson’s model– a “white-garbed, dad dominated, single, inflexible recluse: It is Emily’s awful deed that continues to captivate readers. Why would she do something so dreadful? How could she kill a guy and bed his corpse? This line of questioning cause a psychological evaluation of Emily’s character. David Minter, in William Faulkner: His Life and Work, notes in numerous various passages the significant influence that Sigmund Freud, the dad of contemporary psychoanalysis, had on Faulkner’s fiction.
Freud theorized that repression, particularly if it is sexual in nature, frequently results in mental problem. In the story, Emily’s overprotective, overbearing father rejects her a normal relationship with the opposite sex by repeling any prospective mates. Due to the fact that her father is the only guy with whom she has had a close relationship, she denies his death and keeps his remains in her house up until she breaks down 3 days later on when the doctors insist she let them take the body.
Later in the story, the girls of the town and her 2 female cousins from Alabama work to sabotage her relationship with Homer Barron. Of course, the storyteller recommends that Homer himself may not precisely be passionate about marrying Emily. However, it is delegated the reader to envision the precise circumstances resulting in Homer’s denoument. Finally, Emily takes the offensive by poisoning Homer so he can’t abandon her. The discovery of a hair of her hair on the pillow next to the decomposing remains recommends that she slept with the cadaver or, even worse, made love with it.