In literature we often encounter characters being influenced by an outside force. These influences are the exercises of a moral or a secret control over the actions of another. Usually brought about by a controlling or directing power based not on authority, but on social, moral, financial, or other forms of ascendency. Sometimes the power of privately controlling the acts of those in authority brings about persuasive capabilities. These influences can have a positive or negative effect on the characters lives, depending on their reactions to the influence.
The effect of predominance is seen in William Faulkner s “A Rose for Emily.” “A Rose for Emily” is about a “stubborn and coquettish” (Pg. 479) girl trying to make her way as an independent woman after her father s tragic death.
In this work, Faulkner develops the idea that influences from our past and present affect our lives; making these influences work to our benefit creates prosperous lives, while continuing to believe in these influences after they are no longer applicable in our lives leads to twisted lives.
“We 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, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip.” (Pg. 481)
This “horsewhip” (Pg. 481) is the legendary weapon used by American father to protect his daughter from unwelcome suitors. Just like the America fathers, Emily s father is influencing Emily to stay away from “all the young men.” (Pg. 481) Even as Emily ages to a ripe age of “thirty” (Pg. 482) she still remains “single” (Pg. 481), because of her father s control over her love life. When Emily s father dies she “cling[s] to that which had robbed her, as people will.” (Pg. 482) This is a sign of the control Emily s father had over Emily. Even after Emily s father was “buried” (Pg.482) and his influences are extinguished, Emily still remains “stubborn and coquettish” (Pg. 479) like her father s influence taught her. Even as Emily ages she remains “dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse” (Pg. 485), causing her to be “an eyesore among eyesores.” (Pg. 479) By her being “an eyesore among eyesores” (Pg. 479) Emily is not moving on in her life; just like her house which as been “encroached and obliterated” (Pg. 479) by “garages and cotton gins.” (Pg. 479) By not moving no in her life and forgetting about her father s influence, Emily has created a twisted life for herself. In this the author strengthens his idea that influences from the past and present affect our lives and continuing to believe in these influences after they are no longer applicable in our lives leads to twisted lives.
Influences can also come from an authority figure. Some authority figures that we as a society recognize are the policeman, the fireman, and the doctor. All of these positions contain “the work as identity idea.” This is that they all have certain identities associated with their career. Although authority figures usually work for the people, many of them have been know to use their influence over people s minds in a negative way. This is seen in the following quotation:
In this we see Miss Emily s trust in the authority figure. We can interpret that the reason she believes Colonel Sartoris is that he is a veteran from WWI. This allows him to fit the stereotype of an authority figure. Although Colonel Sartoris only offered Emily this idea because “Miss Emily would have [not] accepted charity.” (Pg. 479) Faulkner says that ” only a man of Colonel Sartoris generation and thought could have invented it, and only a women could have believed it.” (Pg. 479) In this we can interpret that Colonel Sartoris is a radical man and that he uses his power as the authority figure in a negative way. By doing this deed Colonel Sartoris dooms Emily to a life long hassle over her taxes. When Colonel Sartoris dies and it is time for Emily to pay her taxes Emily refuses. She states that she has “no taxes in Jefferson, Colonel Sartoris explained it to me.” (Pg. 480) Because she can no let go of Colonel Sartoris influence after his death, Emily leads herself into a twisted life. In this Faulkner furthers his idea that influences past and present affects our lives and continuing to believe in these influences after they are no longer applicable leads to twisted lives.
Influences can also come from culturally accepted beliefs. In the days of Kings and Queens, the King and Queens believed that God put them on the throne. Because this power was bestowed upon them and only them in this manner, they believed that they could influence anyone in anyway they wished or deemed necessary to. This belief of being superior is seen in the following quotation:
In this we see that Emily has an influence produced by her being part of “the high and mighty Griersons.” (Pg. 481) Because of this predominance, we can interpret that Emily wishes to marry “Homer Barron, a Yankee” (Pg. 482) but cannot due to her hereditary obligations. This influence then causes Emily to make a futile decision. This decision is wither or not to go through with the marriage. Even though Emily knows she cannot marry Homer she still buys “a man s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B. on each piece.” (Pg. 484) This makes it seem like Emily is making her own decision, like her old Aunt Wyatt when she went crazy and stated “that the Griersons held themselves a little to high for what they really were.” (Pg. 481) In the end Emily goes with the influence of the Griersons and does not marry Homer Baron. Although she did this she created a greater sin by murdering Homer, so that she may keep him for herself for eternity. Because the influence of the Griersons has long been out of Emily s house as supported by this quotation:
“She had blood kin under her roof again.” (Pg. 484)
She has still clung to the influence of her noble background even though it was no longer applicable in her life. Because Emily held on to this influence for so long she created her twisted life. In this the author solidifies his idea that influences past and present affect our lives and continuing to believe in these influences after they are no longer usable in our lives leads to twisted lives.
To bring this matter of Miss Emily and Faulkner s ideas about influence to some telling close, the author implies that life is all about influences. These influences may be social, political, economical, cultural, and intellectual. If a human properly tackles these influences then their life will be prosperous. If they continue to believe in these influences after they are no longer applicable, then their life will become twisted. Emily s father does not allow Emily to see men thereby condemning her as a youth to remain “stubborn and coquettish.” (Pg.479) This stubborn nature of Emily s furthers her inability to let go of past influences and move on in her life. Eventually as the story comes to a close Emily has to overcome the pressures of her upper class. She is not able to cope with this influence thereby leading to the tragic ending of the story as one “long strand of iron-gray hair” (Pg. 486) is found on a pillow next to a dead body.
All life brings inevitable influences that we must properly conquer. If these influences are handled with caution and care then our lives will be prosperous and fulfilling — this is the gem at the heart of Faulkner s story.