There are numerous dynamics that affect and directs themes, events and characters of a story. Time and change also affect stories in a substantial manner. The same has been described prominently in stories, “A rose for Emily” and “A&P”. Both these stories were written decades ago, and readers get a glimpse of the time and change of both these literary works. William Faulkner wrote, “A Rose for Emily” in 1930 while “A&P” was written by John Updike in the year 1961. This paper intends to discuss how time and change affect both these stories along with discussing other related aspects.
Although Faulkner wrote, “A Rose for Emily” in the year 1930 but it is very clear that he does not follow the traditional approach of describing his ideas, characters and impulses. Faulkner relies on his skills of shifting and manipulating time according to his thoughts. He also stretches the story and presents his ideas that are very modern and also represent the change that are decades ahead from that time. Emily’s funeral is portrayed at the beginning of the story but later on, readers come to realize that even that funeral was also in flashback. The story keeps moving in flashbacks (Faulkner, 2007).
Emily appears in the story as a young girl and also she is portrayed as an old woman. Faulkner shows his skills and through taking readers into flashbacks, forward and backward, at various points, he describes the past and the future. He also describes how time influences events, mindset and readers. Faulkner indicates towards the effectiveness of time but at the same time he also talks about some virtues that humans possess, and they are not necessarily eroded by effects of the time.
Faulkner weaves a multilayered and complicated word wherein he presents two different ideas that drive the story. The first idea is based on appropriate calculations as well as the unembellished reality. It suggests that time always moves forward obstinately and what is done cannot be undone. Faulkner further suggests that only present is the reality, and everything else that is gone is gone. Faulkner indicates that it is pertinent to understand the reality instead of remaining in the illusion.
Faulkner’s second idea is comparatively more subjective wherein he suggests that though time always moves forward but memories may remain forever. The second idea suggests that the change of time cannot necessarily hinder the memories of the past. Faulkner appears suggesting that even if people are compelled to be present in the future, their past always play a significant, effervescent and lively role. Emily has been portrayed standing in the subjective jurisdiction of the time where life moves on along with her, but she remains unchanged and committed to her past (Faulkner, 2007).
Faulkner portrays the transition of change in a beautiful manner. Through portraying Emily, he indicates towards the scuffle that comes in the way while facing a sweeping change and maintaining the tradition at the same time. His imaginary city, Jefferson stands at the crossroad waiting for a modern future but still hovering at the past. On the other hand, Emily herself represents the tradition. She does not change irrespective of a number of changes in her community.
Faulkner describes how Emily lives in a town that is traditional but is changing. A number of changes were taking place. When the modern mail facilities reached into town, Emily refused to subscribe metallic numbers attached to her house. She opted to remain unchanged and unaffected from any changes. Here Faulkner describes how it is possible to discard changes or maintain tradition irrespective of the substantial change of the time. All the people of that community were unhappy with what Emily was doing, but they used to tolerate her merely because she was very old (Faulkner, 2007).
She becomes like a burden on the city. People respect her or tolerate her because she is old but at the same time they also want to get rid of her. Emily represents the tradition as everything else around her is changed but what is not changed is the Emily herself. She has become a crossroad where tradition and change meet. Emily is like a monument that witnesses modern changes but carries the tradition with it always. When people came to know that she is “fallen”, they reacted “carried her head high enough [ . . .] as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness” (Faulkner, 2007, p. 125)
Updike (1961) in his story “A&P” describes how people gain maturity and knowledge by every experience of their life. The story is knitted around a young boy named Sammy who is nineteen years old and working in A&P store. The author in his story efficiently portrayed the immaturity of a young boy and decision taken by him without considering the consequences. Through the story, it was very visible that Sammy did not like the job and found it so boring. He considered customers boring and unimportant. However, situation changed when three girls walk into a store in swimming suits. Sammy found them very interesting and noticed all major & minor details of those girls. All other employees at A&P store were also gazing at the girls, but Sammy found those girls superior to other and started liking one of them (Updike, 1986).
Time brought significant changes at all level in our society. Today it is normal seeing girls walking in the store in swimwear and bikini. Young boys and girls find it very normal, but during the time when Updike written this story, it was not normal. Lengel, the store manager “A&P” raised his objection to the girls. Lengel mentioned to the girls that they should have not appeared in swimwear in the store being it against rules of the store. Lengel statement embarrassed the girls. Sammy mentioned to Lengel that he did not like his behavior with the girls, and resigning from his job.
The reaction of Sammy was very surprising and away from the reality at that time. Sammy was trying to gain attention of the girls, but end up gaining nothing and losing his job. Things have changed significantly in our society over a period. The culture during the 1960s was completely different from what it is in modern time. As mentioned by the author, people in the A&P store had not seen beach or sea for last twenty years. Therefore, their reaction to the girls was strange (Updike, 1986).
In the story, decision taken by Sammy to resign from his post was considered immature and irresponsible. However, in today’s’ modern society the reaction of Sammy will consider as normal, and Lengel’s reaction as conservative and exaggerated. In the present era, Sammy will be considered as a boy with strong values, and a person who fight for the honor of others. At that time, the reaction of Sammy was a reflection of upcoming liberal time. After 1960s various movement were carried-out for liberalization. Role played by Martine Luter King Jr. in liberalization of conservative society was significant.
Updike wrote this story keeping in the mind the social taboos and structure of the society prevailing at that time. A comparison between the society reflected in the story, and present society reveals the changes taken place in our society in last five decades. Society never remains same and keeps on evolving. There are various factors brings changes in our society and the same is reflected in Updike story when Sammy standout clearly in the favor of girls and his own likings. From the story, it seems that Sammy was looking for such opportunity to resign from the job that he dislikes most.
Updike in his story also tries to depict how age impacts thinking of the individual. In the story, Lengel was an old man who found girls in swimwear objectionable. On the other hand, Sammy was a young boy who liked girls very much and appreciated their dress. The decade of 1960s is considered as time of women liberation in America. In modern times, thoughts of adult and elderly people have become liberal. People now accept the different role of women in our society and prefer equality (Updike, 1986).
Time and change are correlated, and this idea has been repeatedly stated in both the stories. Time is a vector of change, and it contributes a lot in causing the change. Time and change are some of the main ideas of both these stories. Faulkner and Updike were very realistic authors who promulgated the importance of time and change and reiterated the same through the events and characters of their stories.
Both the stories revolve around the time and change and reiterate the importance of time and change in a loud and clear manner. Faulkner and Updike have expressed the importance of time and change in a realistic manner and convey the same in a very explicit manner into their stories. Readers can assess the significance and relevance of time and change in both the stories as there are a number of clear examples that indicate the importance of time and change.
Having observed an overview and succinct analysis of stories, “A Rose for Emily” and “A&P”, the paper concludes that both these stories are a live example of time and change. Time and change have affected these stories in a substantial manner. All aspects of both these stories are affected by time and change. Authors of both these stories have portrayed how time and change affect the story, ideas, symbols and characters in a greater manner. By the portrayal of ideas, symbols and characters of stories the effect of time and change are portrayed in both these stories.
Faulkner, W. (1977). Collected Stories of William Faulkner. New York: Vintage.
Updike, J. (1986). A & P: Lust in the Aisles. U.S.A.: Redpath Press.