Psychological Disorders in a Rose for Emily

A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner is one of the most popular short stories written by Faulkner. By Faulkner writing about the political and social ways of the South, Faulkner was creating an illusion of the New south, as being what we know today as America. To give background to A Rose for Emily, the story is divided into five sections.

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In section I, the narrator recalls the time of Emily Grierson’s death and how the entire town attended her funeral in her home, which no stranger had entered for more than ten years. In section II, the narrator describes a time thirty years earlier when Emily resists another official inquiry on behalf of the town leaders, when the townspeople detect a powerful odor emanating from her property. In section III, the narrator describes a long illness that Emily suffers after this incident. Section IV continues the story of Emily’s courtship with Homer; as the courtship went on, the townsfolk decided to take action to prevent it, believing it to be improper. Last, but not least, section V returns to the present. After Emily’s death, Tobe leaves Jefferson and never returns. After Emily is buried, the townspeople explore her house, which none of them had seen in decades. In an upstairs room, they find the remains of Homer Barron in a bridal suite. The room is covered in dust and appears to have remained untouched for decades. On the pillow beside Homer’s corpse, they find a strand of Emily’s iron-gray hair.

Analytical themes in literature are what makes a story become relevant; when writing a story, you should be sure to tie in some type of critical lens, and that’s exactly what William Faulkner did. There were two categories, out of the many critical lenses, that A Rose for Emily fell into: Marxism and Psychoanalysis. Marxism studies how upper classes oppress, restrict, and use the lower class. It also studies struggles between classes, and struggles for wealth and power. Often times, racism is used as a distraction for poor people so they won’t unite, while Psychoanalysis studies text for psychological symbolism, motives, and themes; a psychoanalytic critic analyzes the characters as well as the story. Although there were two critical lenses, I believe that Psychoanalysis was the dominant theory.

Throughout her life, Emily was constantly barraged with her father’s insistence upon maintaining the bloodline of the Grierson family, and she had no mother to speak of to help combat that immense sense of duty and responsibility as the only child. By the time she was thirty, she still had yet to marry, which leads to the inevitable for a woman of that time: low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is the belief that we are less worthy than other people and, therefore, don’t deserve attention, love, or any other of life’s rewards. Indeed, we often believe that we deserve to be punished by life in some way (Tyson, 2006). With the mantra her father engrained into her mind of keeping the bloodline alive and strong, how could her mind resist the fall into low self-esteem? The text gives reason to imply that Emily eventually lost even her will to maintain her thin figure and her health: When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning grey (Faulkner). Unfortunately, low self esteem is not the only conflict Emily seemed to be dealing with psychologically; I will say that Emily is experiencing a fear of abandonment, too. It is safe to say that this situation is a perfect example of the idea that one core psychological issue can lead to another psychological issue. Also in the story, Emily is seen as a loner, and she deals very minimally with the outside world. Because she decided to detach herself from the outside world, she doesn’t allow anyone to get close to her, and she eventually kills the one man that became her friend before he could leave her.

I believe that those two core issues, together, made up Emily’s largest psychological issue, which was the need for control; the need for control ended up ruining her life in the long run. As stated previously, psychoanalysis studies text for psychological symbolism, motives, and themes, and in A Rose for Emily, Emily’s childhood made her into the women that she was then. Her dad tried to control her, and it carried over to her as she got older. I personally believe that Emily was miserable and because she was so miserable, she didn’t want other people happy. She ended up killing her friend, Homer Barron, for no reason, in my eyes.

From a psychological standpoint, Emily Grierson is the definition of a psychologically impaired woman. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a qualified individual with a disability is one who, with or without reasonable modification to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity. (2018) To start, a person with a disability is anyone with a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, caring for self, performing manual tasks, working, or learning.

According to Academics Speaking Intensive Program, Psychiatric/psychological disabilities (including, but not limited to, depressive, anxiety, and bipolar disorders) are considered disabilities under the ADA if a major life activity is substantially limited; a diagnosis by a licensed mental health professional, including clinical social workers (LCSW), professional counselors (LPC), psychologists, psychiatrists is required and should include the license number and date of the evaluation in the report on letterhead stationery. (2018) Emily was a Necrophiliac; a Necrophiliac is a lover of the dead. When her father died, she kept his body in the house for three days, and when she killed Homer Barron, they discovered that she kept his body in the house for years. Not only did she keep his body in the house for years, she slept with his body. Living a silent life, Emily Grierson becomes uncontainable and uncontrollable by the patriarchal society she is a part of. Her linguistically inexplicable existence constructs her as a counter discourse against the Law of the Father. Dreaming of a lost body and lost desires, she was psychologically impaired and needed help.

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