The most notable development in literary studies has been the evolution and proliferation of several critical vantage points/positions vis-à-vis which literary texts are analysed, evaluated and interpreted. Stylistic analysis is one such novel and fascinating approach to unravel the complexities of a text. Such an analysis uses an integrative model, by subjecting the ‘words on the page’ (language) to a close scrutiny in order to explore the text (literature) and decipher hidden values/meanings for a richer and enhanced understanding. The aim of this paper is to dissect Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and view it under the stylistics microscope for a magnified and focussed view of the story’s systemic linguistic/literary description, delineate the interrelationships thereof, and comprehend the use of language as a means to unlock Faulkner’s construction, structure, theme and symbolism. The paper also proposes to establish a concrete analysis of how such an emphasis on stylistic features embedded in a text and their use serves to amplify and intensify the connotative significances of the text and help in attaining a unified appreciation of the same.
For the purposes of this paper, an integrated model of language and literature will be introduced to examine Faulkner’s style in “A Rose for Emily”. Also, such a model shall enable to unveil the varied interpretations and meanings the text lends itself to. Daniel asserts "Faulkner often forces the reader to piece together events from a seemingly random and fragmentary series of impressions experienced by a variety of narrators. Faulkner's style often strains conventional syntax; he might pile clause upon clause in an effort to capture the complexity of thought." For a story characterized by staggering synchronicity, a movement back and forth in time, the cadaver of a former paramour, dilapidated mansions and emaciated butlers, coupled with a gothic style and a hovering sense of macabre and mystery, Faulkner would have meant the story to be anything but easy. That the text also interweaves various coalescing strands of necrophilia, disenchantment with southern values, a tableaux of southern myths, tradition and historical conflict along with slavery, ostracization and violence, the aforementioned claim stands fully justified. The paper shall now examine the various facets of the story in depth to understand the contextualization of the text, in relation to Faulkner’s deployment of a specific style.
The title of the story is in stark contrast to the dark content of the story. The almost romantic expectations aroused by the four-word tiltle “A Rose for Emily” are played off by the somber text. Also, the use of first name, without the social title is a blazing example of understanding how social deixis is instrumental in moulding the perspective of the readers, as intended by the author/speaker. The absence of the social title is a means of bridging the gap between the speaker/author and the protagonist, conveying that Faulkner was highly sympathetic with Emily and viewed her as a victim of the societal mores and the rotten paraphernalia it tagged along, in the name of tradition and values.
The story begins with a description of Miss Emily’s death and her mysterious mansion, which had not been visited by any outsider “in at least ten years”, and this deictic reference immediately deflates the personal element evinced by the first-person denotation in the title. The social title that accompanies her name throughout the story enables the reader to view the social structure of southern society, as if layers of cordon sanitaire were set up between the aristocracy and the working class. The house too, as a conventional gothic symbol, serves to reinforce the decaying present fed by a rotten past. The use of a first person plural narrator, indicating the town’s ‘collective knowledge/curiosity’, a token of southern custom/behavior, discredited and castigated by modern societies serves to enhance the distancing effect and reiterates the lack of agency in knowing Emily’s story, through the eyes of Emily. However, the fact that Faulkner evokes the sympathetic response to Emily in his readers vis-à-vis the deployment of the lacuna is a mark of distinguished achievement and startling, astounding literary merit.
Our whole town went to her funeral, we all said, she will kill herself, we had said she will marry him, we did not say she was crazy then, we remembered all the young men her father had driven away, when we saw her again, her hair was cut short it would be the best thing.
The non-linear and wayward structure of the storytelling, in its movement back and forth in time, is a deliberate exercise on the part of Faulkner to add to the mysterious, ambiguous and complex structure of the story. The complex time structure and the ambiguity of expressions relating to chronology require a focussed attempt on the part of the readers to pick on the scattered, ambiguous details and attain cohesion in the text.
no onehad seen in the last ten years, on the first of the year, February came, since she ceased giving china-painting lessons, eight or ten years earlier, Colonel Sartories had been dead almost ten years, she vanquished themas she had vanquished their father's thirty years before about the smell, that was two years after her father's death, and a short time after her sweetheartdeserted her, after her sweetheart went away, after a week or two the smell went away, that was after the smell, day after father's death, she was sick for a long time, when they saw her again, in the summer after her father's death, she was over thirty.
Another distinctive feature of the story is its deployment of schemas to illuminate meaning. Schemas are organized representations of background knowledge which readers bring along to texts, (Short 1996: 231).Schemata are used in the story as ‘ideational scaffolding’ (Anderson, 1977) to help the reader understand and interpret the varying cultural, social and historical attitudes prevalent, and to help them determine the intended meaning/s better. The refernce to “Uniom and confederate soldiers” as a marker of the American Civil war, the social titles as emblems and tokens of social distinction and status quo, the reference to ‘yankee’, ‘negro’ as typical linguistic register for nominals of the inhabitants of north and slavery respectively, all serve to drive home the purport of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, and forcefully so. The text abounds in such references and thus lend the story its unique status as a work of sheer genius, with its plurification of meaning and several, almost poeticized reverberattions of signification, on one or multiple planes simultaneously.
William Faulkner himself asserts, of his style: "I'm trying primarily to tell a story, in the most effective way I can think of, the most moving, the most exhaustive. This I think accounts for what people call the obscurity, the involved formless 'style', endless sentences. I am trying to say it all in one sentence, between the Cap and one period, (The Faulkner-Cowley File 14). Aiken asserts, "It is as if Mr. Faulknerhad decided to try to tell us everythingevery last origin or source or quality or qualification, and every possible future or permutation as well, in one terrifically concentrated effort: each sentence to be, as it were, a microcosm." The statement resounds true for the entire rubric of the text, as the entire story were an effort to capture the ‘southern’ and everything it represented- in all its beauty and grotesquery. In this context, the last part of the story becomes quite significant, so much so, that one statement becomes the whole part, and in one concerted endeavour, as it were, the entire story itself.
we, noticed, on the second pillow, the indentation of a head, lifted something, leaning forward, faint and invisible dust, dry and acrid in the nostrils; saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.
This sentence is a startling example of what Labov calls ‘coda.’ Coda, according to Labov, is a narrative element in the linguistic structure, that signals the end of a story. It brings about a completion, a return to the point of entry, and as such posits several avenues and possibilities of interpretation. Labov's model stresses that "some codas which strike us as particularly skilful are strangely disconnected from the main narrative.” As such, the coda in “A Rose for Emily” is an unexpected one and conforms to Labov’s definition of a skilful and effective coda.
The analysis of Faulkner’s style enables the reader to grasp the stylistic features of the story, in their subtlety or forthright-ness, keeping the reader ever-so-more engaged in the reading process, taking the journey to Miss Emily’s (or shall we say Emily’s, as the reader shares faulkner’s sympathy with Emily!) mansion, curious and eager to find out more and thereby attain a unified and richer understanding of the text. The approach is an efficient and intriguing method to study the text and opens up vistas for attaining a fuller understanding of the text, vis-à-vis other approaches en route. Any analysis, that discounts this approach, shall only be able to reach a murky, partial and obfuscated meaning of the text.
Aiken, C. . The Novel as Form, Three Decades of William Faulkner. Ed. by Linda Wagner, Michigan State University: Michigan. 1973. Print.
Anderson, R. . The Notion of Schemata and the Educational Enterprise, in Anderson et al. (1997): Schooling and the Acquisition of Knowledge. N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum. 1977. Print.
Cowley, M. . The Faulkner-Cowley File: Letters and Memories 1944-1962, New York: The Viking Press. 1966. Print.
Daniel, K. and others. Elements of Literature, Fifth Course; Literature of the United States, Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1997. Print.
Labov, W. . Language in the Inner City, Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 1972.
Miller, J. and others . United States in Literature, Glenview Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company. 1982. Print.
“A Rose for Emily” . Accessed 15th March, 2014. < http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/wf_rose.html>