In American society, it has become a second nature for people to put others on a pedestal, thus allowing a harsher criticism of their actions. This practice provides members of society with less time to evaluate their own faults. The townspeople in William Faulkner s A Rose for Emily separated Emily Grierson from
themselves on the basis of family status. Throughout the story they continuously place her actions as being on a higher level than those of other people in the town in order to put her actions under a harsher scrutinization than their own.
When Homer Barron comes to their town, the townspeople watch in earnest to see how the relationship between he and Emily develops. As it progresses, the people begin to add the town constructed model of how Emily should behave to their evaluation of the affair between her and Homer. Though it would perhaps have been considered acceptable for another woman of the town to fall in love with such a man, they consoled themselves that …a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer. (Pg. 74) They set her up as the model of their small society so that when she fails they have a soul upon which to
place the blame for the wrongs in their society. For, not a long period of time had elapses before …some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people.
Amongst the swirling disapproval of the relationship between Homer and Emily, the town seeks emotional guidance for Emily in the form of her two cousins. So she had blood – kin under her roof again, and [they] sat back to watch the developments. Emily, and her tribulations in life, have become a form of
entertainment. When a person is placed so high above others by their peers, the subconscious expectation by their peers is that the person who is deemed as superior will fail. In an effort to cover their insecurities and failures in life, people create drama outside of themselves. The hope is that the dramas they conjure up, will detract others from the view of their own deficiencies.
Through the obsession which this town holds for Emily, stems a jealousy of her superiority, the idea of which has been created by the townspeople themselves. In today s society, we hold celebrities as superior to ourselves, and fool ourselves into believing that they are some sort of superbeings. As time elapses, a jealousy of these people begins to fester, and eventually our society begins to wait for a chance to prove that these people are only human. We claw at the chance to bring these people down to our level, when we put them above ourselves in the first place. At the time of the death of Emily s father, the people of the town found their chance to bring Emily down to
their level. Because her father had left her nothing but the house, the townspeople …could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Throughout their lives, the women had held basically held Emily and her father as the epitome of wealth, splendor and beauty. [They] had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground…. In the earlier years of her life, Emily s beauty and stature was the cause of much jealousy among the other women of the town. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, [they] were not pleased exactly, but vindicated…. They had succeeded in bringing her back down to their level after they had positioned her in a place of superiority.
In our society today, we continue to play this same game with celebrities. It is a one sided, voyeuristic approach to understanding another person. They do not understand Emily as a real person, nor do they care. A lack of interaction caused by their detachment of her from society prevents her from being considered as human. They use her instead as an escape from the evaluation of their own shortcomings.