- 国際英語学部紀要 (ISSN:13480162)
- vol.5, pp.1-15, 2004-09-30
William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" has been frequently considered as a story of the grotesque because of its macabre Gothic setting. Also, it has been discussed in the historical context of the South. These types of arguments are, however, apt to be a mere categorization of Emily Grierson, the protagonist of the story, as a mad woman, or to be a symbolization of her as a representative of the antebellum Southern plantocracy. As Judith Fetterley properly points out, these kinds of readings often end up with a repetition of cultural imperatives of the Southern patriarchy upon Emily. Based on Fetterley's feminist approach to "A Rose for Emily", this essay aims to give a psychoanalytic reading of this short story, especially focusing on the relationship between Emily and the Southern patriarchy. First, I discuss the violent repression of Emily by the Southern patriarchy. Throughout the story, Emily serves as a kind of screen on which the male fantasy is projected. Idealized as a paragon of the antebellum Southern aristocrats through the "patriarchal lens" of the anonymous narrator, she allows the townspeople to project their nostalgic fantasy of the Old South. In reality, however, by "screening" the loss of the Old South, she functions both as an indication of the townspeople's ignorance of the loss, which they latently must be conscious of, and as a sign of repression of the lack of knowledge of the loss. This lack of knowledge is supported by the symbolic father figure, represented as Emily's strict father, who, even after his death, seems to dominate Emily. However, his death is a mystery to the reader because he dies secretly in Emily's house. From a psychoanalytical viewpoint, ignorance of how one comes to know something is, in a sense, an inverted version of the lack of knowledge of the loss. According to Sigmund Freud, this irrational negation of one's own knowledge derives from ambivalence toward the primal father Freud mentions in Totem and Taboo; one wishes the death of the tyrannical father while fearing the loss of the father's law. Therefore, Emily's role to the townspeople is also quite ambivalent; they expect her to join to the new symbolic social code of their community, while that will bring about a catastrophe to the patriarchal South. Thus both physically alive and socially dead, she has to be a screen that maintains the male fantasy of the Old South. With Emily's death, however, the male fantasy of the imaginary Old South comes to an end. With her burial, the townspeople come to face the reality which Emily has screened behind her. After the burial, they rush into her bedroom only to find the rotten corpse supposed to be Homer Barren, Emily's ex-lover, which Emily has long kept secret from them. At this moment, the townspeople's fantasy of the imaginary patriarchy breaks down and, instead, they are forced to confront a formidable reality. As Faulkner himself admits, "A Rose for Emily" is "a ghost story" in these two senses. In one sense, Emily has been permitted to be in this narrative world as an imaginary figure upon which the male fantasy of the townspeople is imposed and, by doing so, supports the ideological basis of the Old South. In the other sense, she is nothing other than a symptom of the repression of the loss of the patriarchal South and, as a logical consequence, once it is revealed, she must vanish as a specter does. The "strand of iron gray hair" left on the pillow is the only trace of the ghastly Emily.