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NANA

WRITTEN BY EMILE ZOLA

SYNOPSIS
Monsieur Fauchery, the drama critic, takes his cousin la Faloise to the theater for the
opening of a new musical featuring an exciting new star known simply as Nana. At the theater,
the two men recognize many people from the fashionable world, among them, the pious Count
Muffat de Beuville and his wife, Countess Sabine. When Nana appears onstage, it is obvious that
she has no talent, but she possesses one outstanding quality — she is the epitome of sexuality. At
first the audience laughs until a young boy, Georges Hugon, cries out, "She's wonderful." From
then until the end of the play, Nana is in control of the audience, especially during the final act
when she appears on the stage virtually naked. The next day, while Nana is making arrangements
to receive her lovers, fans who had seen her the preceding evening begin to call upon her.
Among the visitors are Count Muffat and his father-in-law, the Marquis de Chouard, who
pretends to come to collect money for a charitable organization. Both men are visibly affected by
the presence of Nana. A wealthy banker named Steiner also comes, and even though he has a
reputation for spending fortunes on actresses, Nana refuses to see him. The following week, at a
party given by the Count Muffat, the discussion between the men concerns a party that Nana is
giving after her performance. She has told Fauchery to invite the count to the party, but most of
the men think that he will not accept. At the party, more people come than Nana had expected;
but the count does not come. At the end of the party, Nana decides it is time to look after her
own interest and lets Steiner know that she will accept him as a lover. As Nana's reputation
spreads, soon foreign dignitaries begin to come to the theater to see her. Count Muffat must
accompany an English prince to the theater and while there can hardly constrain himself because
Nana has aroused in him unknown desires. Before the prince takes her away for the evening, the
count discovers that Steiner has bought her a country house close to a family he often visits. She
tells him to come see her there. The country house is owned by Madame Hugon, the mother of
Georges, who shouted in the theater that Nana was wonderful. When Georges hears about Nana's
visit, he goes to see her. He is so young that Nana does not want to accept him as a lover, but
after some mild persuasion she succumbs. This new relationship pleases her so much that she
decides to postpone her affair with Count Muffat. After a week, however, Georges' relationship
is discovered and his mother forces him to remain at home. Then Count Muffat slips into Nana's
bedroom and begins his love affair with her. Three months later, Nana begins to resent the fact
that Count Muffat never gives her much money. Furthermore, she has formed an infatuation for
an actor named Fontan. When both Muffat and Steiner arrive and find her in bed with Fontan,
Nana throws both her old lovers out and decides to be true to Fontan. However, the actor soon
tires of Nana and begins beating her brutally. Finally, he even locks her out of her apartment.
Nana now decides to renew her relationship with Count Muffat but makes it clear to him
that she expects much more than she previously received. The count agrees to all her demands,
buys her an expensive mansion, furnishes it elegantly, and gives her twelve thousand francs a
month for expenses. Still Nana is not satisfied; she begins to have relations with other men, even
men whom she picks up from the streets. Out of boredom, she begins to experiment with lesbian
love and finds that it is rather pleasant. Count Muffat must learn to accept all of her vagaries or
else leave. By now he is so completely enslaved that he cannot deny her anything. At the famous
race, the Prix de Paris, one of the horses is named after Nana. Everyone comes to the race and
many bet on the filly, Nana. After the race, which is won by Nana, the owner of the stable, Count
Vandeuvres, is suspected of some shady transactions and commits suicide by setting fire to
himself and his stables. Nana, however, is celebrated because her namesake won the race. No
amount of money or pleasure seems to satisfy Nana. She begins to spend money so wildly that
she has to have many more lovers to supply her insatiable demands. Quickly, she begins to go
through the fortunes of many men and leaves them destitute and bankrupt. Through all of her
experiences, the count remains imprisoned by her capricious behavior. Only when he
unexpectedly discovers her in bed with his decrepit father-in-law is he shocked back into his
senses. But by then, he too is a broken man.

One day, Nana disappears from Paris. No one knows of her whereabouts, but rumors
begin to grow up about her. All of the rumors concern huge sums of money and fantastic lovers
for Nana. One day, it is discovered that Nana is in a hotel in Paris dying of smallpox. Many of
the old actresses and courtesans go there to see her, but they are too late. Now, only Nana's body,
corrupted by the ravages of the disease, lies unclaimed in the austere hotel room.

Nana An actress and a courtesan who possesses an exceptionally beautiful body which
she uses to ensnare men. Count Muffat de Beuville An important member of the French
government who has always been a very pious Catholic until he becomes infatuated with Nana.
Countess Sabine de Beuville Count Muffat's wife, who was the pillar of respectability until after
her husband began having an affair with Nana. She then has an affair with young Monsieur
Daguenet, who was Nana's earlier lover. Monsieur Steiner A wealthy German-Jew banker who is
famous for spending fortunes on actresses with whom he is infatuated. One of his fortunes is
spent on Nana. Monsieur Léon Fauchery An influential journalist who reviews Nana's
performances and later writes a scathing article about her. Hector de la Faloise Monsieur
Fauchery's naive cousin who is acquainted with the Muffats and who thinks it would be
fashionable to be ruined by Nana. Madame Hugon A highly respectable lady who is a close
friend to the Countess Sabine. Georges Hugon (Zizi) Her seventeen-year-old son who was
Nana's lover for a week and whose infatuation for Nana causes him to stab himself with a pair of
scissors. Philippe Hugon The elder son, who becomes infatuated with Nana, steals money from
his command post, and is placed in prison. Count Xavier de Vandeuvres A prominent gentleman
whose fortune is ruined by gambling on horses and shady deals in order to supply Nana with
luxuries. He burns himself and his horses after his final collapse. Marquis de Chouard Count
Muffat's father-in-law, who is best described as a dirty old man who annoys all the young
actresses. Fontan The leading actor for the Variety Theater. Nana becomes infatuated with him in
spite of the fact that he is cruel to her. Zoé Nana's maid, who uses Nana's alliances with men in
order to fill her own pockets with leftover money. Paul Daguenet One of Nana's earliest lovers,
whom she later marries to Count Muffat's daughter. Estelle The priggish daughter of the Muffats,
who has a large dowry and who later marries Nana's earlier lover, Daguenet. Rose Mignon The
leading actress for the Variety Theater who sleeps with many of the same people as does Nana
but is never as successful. Monsieur Auguste Mignon Rose's husband, who arranges his wife's
love affairs and manages the money she makes. Satin A childhood acquaintance of Nana's whom
she later develops a passion for. Louis, or Louiset Nana's sickly young son, whose father is
unknown. Bordenave The producer who gave Nana her first start in her acting career at the
Variety Theater. Labordette An ever-present person of discretion who arranges things. Madame
Maloir Nana's elderly friend, who consoles her during times of stress. Madame Lerat Nana's
aunt, who takes care of Nana's son, Louiset. Madame Tricon A procuress whom Nana goes to
when she needs to pick up some ready cash. Madame Robert Nana's rival for Satin.Francis
Nana's hairdresser, who loans her money and helps her in other small ways. The Prince (Charles)
A Scottish (English) prince who is attracted to Nana. Old Bosc An old actor in the Variety
Theater. Prullière The actor who plays leading roles in the Variety Theater. De Foucarmont A
naval officer and friend of Vandeuvres who is also ruined by Nana. Théophile Venot A staunch
Catholic whose devout religious beliefs influence Count Muffat. Mesdames Chantereau, de
Chezelles, and du Joncquoy Friends of the Countess Sabine de Beuville. Monsieur Fauchery, a
journalist, arrives at the Variety Theater thirty minutes early because his cousin Hector de la
Faloise is excited about seeing a new production entitled The Blond Venus. There is a general air
of anticipation awaiting the appearance of a new actress named Nana, who will play the role of
Venus. Bordenave, the producer of the play, meets the two young men and embarrasses the naive
la Faloise by insisting that the theater be called a whorehouse. He describes his new actress
Nana, as a cheap whore "who sings like a crow" and "has no notion what to do with her hands
and feet." However, he is confident that both Nana and the show will be a success because "Nana
has something else, something as good as all the other things put together." Monsieur Mignon
appears with the wealthy German-Jew banker, Steiner, who is having an affair with Mignon's
wife Rose, the leading actress. Mignon, who arranges his wife's love affairs, tries to lead Steiner
away from the discussion about Nana. A handsome young man, Daguenet, passes the group and
is identified as Nana's lover. Count Xavier de Vandeuvres comes forward to speak to Fauchery
just as a crowd on the street begins to chant Nana's name. Everyone goes to his seat to await the
curtain. While waiting, Fauchery identifies many of the famous courtesans seated in the boxes.
Fauchery is surprised when la Faloise greets the famous Count and Countess Muffat de Beuville
and her father, the Marquis de Chouard. The first act of The Blond Venus begins. Rose Mignon,
as Diana, complains that Mars has been neglecting her in favor of Venus. Others appear and
complain that Venus is causing various troubles between lovers. Only at the end of the first act
does Nana appear. She does sing badly and has no concept of how to conduct herself onstage.
Just as the audience begins to hiss and shout, a young boy cries out, "She's wonderful." Both the
audience and Nana laugh. Suddenly, Nana gains control of the audience and no one cares if she
has no talent because "she has something else." At intermission, everyone agrees that the
production is idiotic, but the main subject is Nana. Several people think they have seen her
somewhere, yet no one can make a positive identification. The audience is delighted with the
second act. All of the gods from Mount Olympus, dressed incognito, are seen in a Parisian dance
hall. Nana is disguised as a fishwife and delights the audience with her natural earthiness. At the
second intermission, la Faloise pays his respects to Countess Muffat. He introduces his cousin
Fauchery, who is received with cold dignity by the count. The countess, however, invites him to
accompany la Faloise next Tuesday to their ancestral home. After they take their leave, they
meet a streetwalker named Satin who is so vulgar that she is sometimes amusing. The third act
begins and a tremor runs through the audience when Nana appears: "Nana was nude. With quiet
audacity, she appeared in her nakedness, certain of the sovereign power of her flesh. Some gauze
enveloped her, but her rounded shoulders, her Amazonian bosom, her wide hips, which swayed
to and fro voluptuously, her whole body, in fact, could be divined . . . in all its foamlike
whiteness of tint, beneath the slight fabric she wore. . . . The good natured girl was suddenly
transformed into a voluptuous woman who brought with her the delirium of sex and opened the
gates of the unknown world of desire." Furthermore, the audience had never before witnessed
such a passionate seduction scene on the stage. No one on the stage now mattered except Nana:
"A wave of lust flowed from her, as from an animal in heat." After the play, the audience leaves
with mixed emotions. La Faloise assures Bordenave that the play will be highly successful.

Nana is a part of a large series of novels that Zola was at the time writing called the
Rougon-Macquart series, which consists of twenty novels published between 1871 and 1898.
Nana is the ninth novel in the series and was published in 1880. In general, the series is a rather
loosely connected group of novels which depict varying aspects of life during the second empire
in France. Even though the title of the series suggests that the novels will deal with two families,
this is not so. There are, however, some points of connection between certain novels in the
group. For example, Nana is the daughter of Gervaise Macquart, whose husband died of
alcoholism while she died of starvation in the novel L'Assommoir (1877). Several times during
the novel Nana makes a reference to the background from which she emerged. In its largest
sense, Nana fits into the Rougon-Macquart series as depicting an influential aspect of the second
empire. Zola thought that his series would not be complete unless he showed the role which
prostitution played in the collapse of the empire. Consequently, the reader should note how much
moralizing and condemnation is present in the novel. Zola, dropping his scientific objectivity,
often describes his main character and her activities so as to show how thoroughly sexual
disorders affect a nation. Throughout the entire novel, the reader should be aware of how often
the individual chapters are filled with crowd scenes. Perhaps no writer of the nineteenth century
filled his novels with so many scenes of such great diversity. Few writers can equal Zola in his
ability to render the emotion gripping an entire mass of people. This ability is amply illustrated
in the first chapter of the novel, as Nana stands on the stage in her nudity and entrances an entire
audience of diverse people. On an initial reading, Zola's beginning offers much difficulty for the
inexperienced reader since he refuses to focus his attention on one dominant character. But his
intent is to try to capture as much as possible the diverse elements which succumb to the spell of
Nana's sexuality. The manner in which Zola casually introduces most of his main characters
attests to the careful planning that went into the novel. A cursory review of the characters and
their ultimate destinies will substantiate the artistic unity of the novel. The first characters to
appear are Fauchery and his cousin Hector de la Faloise. Later Fauchery is to write a good
review of Nana's initial performance; still later he will write a condemnation of her ("The Golden
Fly"); he will also become the lover to the wife of Nana's lover. La Faloise will later be delighted
to be ruined by Nana. Steiner is introduced in the presence of the Mignons and later his entire
fortune will collapse under Nana's destructive desire. Count Xavier de Vandeuvres will commit
suicide when Nana has devoured his fortune. Both the Count and Countess Muffat de Beuville
will be utterly ruined because of Nana, and the final ruin will be brought about by the discovery
of the old Marquis de Chouard, who is now seen sitting with his daughter and son-in-law.
Georges Hugon, who will later stab himself, is seen as the enthusiastic admirer during the
performance. The picture of the Count Muffat sitting icy cold and distant with his family
contrasts well to the final degradation to which he is brought. This is foreshadowed by the
manner in which Count Muffat reacts to Nana's appearance in the third act of the drama. His
puritan righteousness is replaced by deep blotches of passionate red all over his face. Besides the
emphasis on the mass reaction of the audience, Nana's sexuality is equally emphasized. The
entire novel will concern itself with the sexual desires aroused by the physical appearance of
Nana's voluptuous body. We must throughout the rest of the novel be constantly aware that there
are two Nanas. One is the simple girl of the streets who seems to possess no particular or
outstanding attributes, but the other is that symbolic Nana who represents all the sexuality
inherent throughout society. The first Nana is simpleminded and gives herself to anyone at any
time. The other Nana is the voluptuous incarnation of the love goddess, Venus, who reclines on
sumptuous beds costing a small fortune and who evokes hitherto latent urges in everyone.
Chapter 2 shifts from the public view of Nana and shows her in her own private surroundings.
Nana's apartment tells the story of the type of person that she is. There is a gaudy luxury about it
which indicates the career of a girl who has to accept lovers of any sort in order to keep the
apartment.

Throughout the novel, there is a certain aura of comic confusion as Nana must constantly make
arrangements to keep one lover from running into another one. The morning after the theatrical
performance, Nana is mostly concerned about how she can keep her two paying customers away
long enough so that she can enjoy sleeping with Paul Daguenet, who just lost his fortune in a
drop in the stock market. The introduction of Daguenet's name as Nana's lover prepares the
reader for one of the many interrelations throughout the novel. Later, she will use her influence
with Count Muffat to arrange for her lover Daguenet to marry Count Muffat's daughter, Estelle.

The arrangements that Nana makes become a type of motif which is picked up by many of the
courtesans in the novel. The quick letter to lovers — "Sorry darling, not tonight, impossible" —
is constantly being sent to a non-paying lover when paying customers show up. Nana must send
this type of letter that day to Daguenet, who has just left her bed.

Regularly in the novel, the scene will shift from a large crowd scene to a scene in Nana's
bedroom. This chapter, therefore, opens in Nana's bedroom as she arranges her lovers and
receives her hairdresser. Another constant worry to Nana is the matter of small sums of money.
She seems to get large sums of money from people, but she is constantly without small sums
with which to pay tradesmen. Today, she needs only three hundred francs in order to pay the wet
nurse who is taking care of her young son. But she can't find this sum. Whenever this happens in
the novel, Nana always resorts to either going on the streets and picking up someone or else
contacting Madame Tricon, a famous procuress. This time, Madame Tricon appears just as Nana
needs the money and tells Nana of a chance to pick up four hundred francs that afternoon. Thus,
by this method, Nana is always able to solve her temporary need for small amounts of money.

When Francis brings in the review of The Blond Venus, Nana feels very appreciative to Fauchery
and casually thinks that she will repay him someday. This is just another case of Zola's irony
because later Fauchery will write a bitterly sarcastic piece about Nana, and later she will repay
him by taking him on as lover and causing him to sell some valuable property to provide her with
money.
The appearance of Madame Tricon is part of Zola's total picture of the corruption of the age.
More ironical is the fact that Zoé stays with Nana in the hope of saving enough money so that
she can someday take over a business like Madame Tricon's.

Several of the people who will become Nana's lovers at various stages appear that day to
congratulate her on her performance. Among these are Georges Hugon, the young boy who
called out during the performance that Nana was wonderful; Steiner, the fat German-Jew banker
who is later to be ruined by Nana; and most important, Count Muffat and his father-in-law, the
Marquis de Chouard.

Zola uses many instances of irony here as he has Nana return from her engagement with a paying
customer then to receive a supplication from Count Muffat for a donation to the poor in the
district. The donation which Nana gives is the last fifty francs she had just earned through
prostitution Further irony involves the fact that in their first encounter she gives Count Muffat
fifty francs; later she will take hundreds of thousands from him.

The attention paid to Muffat reveals that beneath his stiff dignity, he is seething with passion for
Nana's body. Each time he is around her, Zola uses the same image and description to depict his
inner state: "He needed air; he was overcome from a dizziness from having been in that small
dressing room with its overpowering essence of woman and flowers." These images suggest that
he will later be totally captivated by Nana's sexuality, and most of his encounters with Nana will
like this one be either in small theater dressing rooms or in Nana's dressing room.

Since so many callers have come, Zoé has been sticking them into all available space. Nana, now
tired from her afternoon's experiences, seeks a place to be alone and discovers young Georges
Hugon in one of the rooms. Even though Nana is only eighteen years old, she considers the
seventeen-year-old Georges to be a mere child. But she responds here spontaneously to his gift
of flowers even though she will not let him embrace her. Henceforward, he will become one of
her most devoted admirers until he stabs himself in the final chapters. But we must notice that,
with both Daguenet and Georges, Nana is capable of responding spontaneously to another person
even though she usually sells herself. By these responses, Zola tends to humanize Nana and not
leave her just a symbol of corruption. These responses tend to make Nana a more believable and
likable character in spite of her characteristics.

Zola, the strict naturalist and objective writer, does seem at times to entertain romantic notions. It
does not seem highly realistic that so many people are "lined up on the stairs" waiting to pay
their adulation to Nana. Zola's point, however, is to suggest the degree to which Nana has
already captivated the public after one appearance.
A ROSE FOR EMILY

LITERARY CRITICISM

A Critique For “A Rose for Emily” written by William Faulkner

Life can offer many reasons why a person develops a psychological imprint from the time they
are born to adulthood. Influence upon one’s personality takes many shapes and are often the
result of their immediate environments. We as human beings are bombarded with all types of
information which helps to develop our personalities either consciously or unconsciously. Even
though the amounts of influences increases with time through social structures of the family and
how they rear their children to deal with societal norms, the parental influence becomes the
dominating deciding factor of how a child’s behavior manifest openly to the universe.

On one extreme, socializing a child to interact with others is usually good to develop desired
interpersonal skills and mostly has positive outcomes. On the other hand, a child cut off from
society can develop abnormal behaviors, of which, seems naturally normal for themselves but to
society are deemed taboo. William Faulkner’s short story called “A Rose for Emily” is one such
example of how a person can develop quantifiable characteristics as a direct result from the
influence an isolated home environment can have on a child’s psyching. He develops the story
using Sigmund Freud’s psycho-sexual Oedipus Complex. The Oedipus Complex can be defined
as “a subconscious sexual desire in a child, especially a male child, for the parent of the opposite
sex, usually accompanied by hostility to the parent of the same sex.”

Faulkner attempts to use the Oedipus Complex to develop Emily Grierson’s character who is the
main protagonist within his story. Although Faulkner does establish some connection of the
meaning within Emily’s character, he did not fully define the context as a whole. For example,
the definition as a whole includes the presence of both parents with the child of the opposite sex
competing with the other parent. Meaning, a boy competes with the father for the mother’s love
and the girl competes with the mother for the father’s love. A mother-daughter conflict is absent
from the story line.

Thus, “A Rose for Emily” expresses the relationship between Emily and her protective father,
creating awareness her love and dependency upon him was evident. It took three days for Emily
to release her father’s body to the people of the town for burial after he passed away. She
initially could not accept reality. Implying the fact, Emily did not want to let go of her desire for
the only man she was allowed to have contact with. Her father’s death was the real cause of
being jilted by shock. “To use Freudian terminology, the father had prevented his daughter from
transferring her libido to an outside object, thus intensifying her libidinal dependence upon him.
According to Faulkner, living a sheltered life of the wealthy Griersons and growing up under the
protective guise of her father resulted in unequal and disruptive outcomes on normal behaviors
“causing an unresolved Oedipus Complex.”

The effects of her father’s death and the suppression of free will to love would become evident
with the relationship she developed with Homer Barron the next summer. Emily went against the
grain by ignoring popular opinion through establishing a relationship with an outsider on the
lower economic scale in white southern culture. Faulkner expresses the reason for Emily’s
behavior by stating she …

“…was a young girl with a young girl’s normal aspirations to find love and then a husband and
family, who was brow beaten and kept down by her father, a selfish man who did not want her to
leave home…., and it was a natural instinct of- repressed which- you can mash it down but it
comes up somewhere else and very likely in a tragic form.”
Instead of the emphasis on the Oedipus Complex, Faulkner’s character development entails a
more broad based definition of psychology in defining a term called Super Ego. “According to
this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the
organized realistic part, and the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role” The id deals
with the fantasy part of thinking. And, in Emily’s case the fantasy was expressed through her
attraction to another man. As stated earlier, Emily’s upbringings of isolation caused suppressed
feelings to be buried in her subconscious. When those constraints of freedom were no longer
present in the form of her father’s control, the yearning to be loved and find a replacement for
her happiness then began to be focused on Homer Barron.

Homer was an extension of a desire for something she was not suppose to entertain. He was
openly homosexual and admitted the fact he preferred young men. Yet, Emily developed a
relationship with him anyhow. Eventually, Emily came to find out Homer was just using her for
the wealth she inherited. The id had slowly given way to the concept of love even though in
Emily’s case a love which can be characterized as strange. Love described by Freud through R.S.
Peters’ interpretation infers how it “originates in the ego to satisfy some of its instincts auto-
erotically, is transferred to objects associated with organ-pleasure and expresses the motor
striving of the ego after these objects as sources of pleasure Homer became an object of
satisfaction to fulfill Emily’s fantasy and desires. Conversely, the same need to have love
without escape triggered Emily to poison Homer when she feared he would leave her for good.
As Peters further points out through Freud, “The history of the origin and relations of love makes
us understand how it is that love so constantly manifests itself as ambivalent’, i.e. accompanied
by feelings of hate for the same object.

The last stage of Superego dealing with irrational thought processes became dominant and
showed sickness of Emily’s true character. Emily kept Homer’s body laid out in an intimate
position for forty years until her death. Faulkner also uses Emily’s hair as evidence at the end of
the story to convey the fact, not only did she kill Homer and keep him in bed, she was sleeping
with the dead corpse the whole time. Emily crossed the point of no return when she concluded
keeping Homer in death was better than allowing him the opportunity to withdraw elsewhere. A
vile act, which in some conclusion, gave Emily a sense of happiness and security. As Phillip
Rieff illustrates, “Pleasure is… identical with motivation in general and there naturally can be no
other motive. Homer’s death was not the pleasure Faulkner intended to concentrate on. The act
itself was just a catalyst to solidify her happiness of always having some part of a desire for love
to be always close to her. In other words, she did what she felt had to be done in order to keep
love even though to society her actions would be considered irrational and psychotic. The killing,
therefore, agrees with the Super Ego theorem of Structural Context in Freud’s model of
psychology.

Even though life can display many causes why a person develops certain imprints on behaviors,
certain facts pertain to why particular behaviors manifest. Some form of freedom and limits are
equally important in developing growth. At the same time, natural desires within man or woman
needs to be nurtured in order to avoid negative outcomes from a suppressed state. Love is freely
given to every human being. As is, the ability to think for one’s self. Assuming all person
included have normal learning capacities, children should be free to express whatever desires
motivating them to inquire more about the subject or context. In Emily’s case, she was a young
woman who obviously had feelings of love being suppressed through her father’s protective
nature. Yet at the same time, Emily was not given choice in what and how she should love. The
choice was not hers until she was well into adulthood. By then, it seems, her decision making
capabilities were distorted even though Emily herself internally justified a decision to kill
Homer. Furthermore, there was no presence of competition under the term Oedipus Complex
with a mother-daughter conflict. Faulkner only chose to display a one sided nurturing effect.
There has to be balance when raising a child. A mother is needed as much as the father is and
vice versa. A suppression agreeing with Freud’s interpretation of something (feelings) denied
and allowed to fester will eventually rear it’s ugly head on the outside. In Emily’s case, the ugly
head being reared was her psychotic mind towards her relationship with Homer Barron.
Life can offer many reasons why a person develops a psychological imprint from the time they
are born to adulthood. Influence upon one’s personality takes many shapes and are often the
result of their immediate environments. We as human beings are bombarded with all types of
information which helps to develop our personalities either consciously or unconsciously. Even
though the amounts of influences increases with time through social structures of the family and
how they rear their children to deal with societal norms, the parental influence becomes the
dominating deciding factor of how a child’s behavior manifest openly to the universe.

On one extreme, socializing a child to interact with others is usually good to develop desired
interpersonal skills and mostly has positive outcomes. On the other hand, a child cut off from
society can develop abnormal behaviors, of which, seems naturally normal for themselves but to
society are deemed taboo. William Faulkner’s short story called “A Rose for Emily” is one such
example of how a person can develop quantifiable characteristics as a direct result from the
influence an isolated home environment can have on a child’s psyching. He develops the story
using Sigmund Freud’s psycho-sexual Oedipus Complex. The Oedipus Complex can be defined
as “a subconscious sexual desire in a child, especially a male child, for the parent of the opposite
sex, usually accompanied by hostility to the parent of the same sex.”

Faulkner attempts to use the Oedipus Complex to develop Emily Grierson’s character who is the
main protagonist within his story. Although Faulkner does establish some connection of the
meaning within Emily’s character, he did not fully define the context as a whole. For example,
the definition as a whole includes the presence of both parents with the child of the opposite sex
competing with the other parent. Meaning, a boy competes with the father for the mother’s love
and the girl competes with the mother for the father’s love. A mother-daughter conflict is absent
from the story line.

Thus, “A Rose for Emily” expresses the relationship between Emily and her protective father,
creating awareness her love and dependency upon him was evident. It took three days for Emily
to release her father’s body to the people of the town for burial after he passed away. She
initially could not accept reality. Implying the fact, Emily did not want to let go of her desire for
the only man she was allowed to have contact with. Her father’s death was the real cause of
being jilted by shock. “To use Freudian terminology, the father had prevented his daughter from
transferring her libido to an outside object, thus intensifying her libidinal dependence upon
him.”According to Faulkner, living a sheltered life of the wealthy Griersons and growing up
under the protective guise of her father resulted in unequal and disruptive outcomes on normal
behaviors “causing an unresolved Oedipus Complex.”

The effects of her father’s death and the suppression of free will to love would become evident
with the relationship she developed with Homer Barron the next summer. Emily went against the
grain by ignoring popular opinion through establishing a relationship with an outsider on the
lower economic scale in white southern culture. Faulkner expresses the reason for Emily’s
behavior by stating she …

“…was a young girl with a young girl’s normal aspirations to find love and then a husband and
family, who was brow beaten and kept down by her father, a selfish man who did not want her to
leave home…., and it was a natural instinct of- repressed which- you can mash it down but it
comes up somewhere else and very likely in a tragic form.

Instead of the emphasis on the Oedipus Complex, Faulkner’s character development entails a
more broad based definition of psychology in defining a term called Super Ego. “According to
this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the
organized realistic part, and the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role” The id deals
with the fantasy part of thinking. And, in Emily’s case the fantasy was expressed through her
attraction to another man. As stated earlier, Emily’s upbringings of isolation caused suppressed
feelings to be buried in her subconscious. When those constraints of freedom were no longer
present in the form of her father’s control, the yearning to be loved and find a replacement for
her happiness then began to be focused on Homer Barron.
Homer was an extension of a desire for something she was not suppose to entertain. He was
openly homosexual and admitted the fact he preferred young men. Yet, Emily developed a
relationship with him anyhow. Eventually, Emily came to find out Homer was just using her for
the wealth she inherited. The id had slowly given way to the concept of love even though in
Emily’s case a love which can be characterized as strange. Love described by Freud through R.S.
Peters’ interpretation infers how it “originates in the ego to satisfy some of its instincts auto-
erotically, is transferred to objects associated with organ-pleasure and expresses the motor
striving of the ego after these objects as sources of pleasure.” Homer became an object of
satisfaction to fulfill Emily’s fantasy and desires. Conversely, the same need to have love
without escape triggered Emily to poison Homer when she feared he would leave her for good.
As Peters further points out through Freud, “The history of the origin and relations of love makes
us understand how it is that love so constantly manifests itself as ambivalent’, i.e. accompanied
by feelings of hate for the same object.

The last stage of Superego dealing with irrational thought processes became dominant and
showed sickness of Emily’s true character. Emily kept Homer’s body laid out in an intimate
position for forty years until her death. Faulkner also uses Emily’s hair as evidence at the end of
the story to convey the fact, not only did she kill Homer and keep him in bed, she was sleeping
with the dead corpse the whole time. Emily crossed the point of no return when she concluded
keeping Homer in death was better than allowing him the opportunity to withdraw elsewhere. A
vile act, which in some conclusion, gave Emily a sense of happiness and security. As Phillip
Rieff illustrates, “Pleasure is… identical with motivation in general and there naturally can be no
other motive.” Homer’s death was not the pleasure Faulkner intended to concentrate on. The act
itself was just a catalyst to solidify her happiness of always having some part of a desire for love
to be always close to her. In other words, she did what she felt had to be done in order to keep
love even though to society her actions would be considered irrational and psychotic. The killing,
therefore, agrees with the Super Ego theorem of Structural Context in Freud’s model of
psychology.

Even though life can display many causes why a person develops certain imprints on behaviors,
certain facts pertain to why particular behaviors manifest. Some form of freedom and limits are
equally important in developing growth. At the same time, natural desires within man or woman
needs to be nurtured in order to avoid negative outcomes from a suppressed state. Love is freely
given to every human being. As is, the ability to think for one’s self. Assuming all person
included have normal learning capacities, children should be free to express whatever desires
motivating them to inquire more about the subject or context. In Emily’s case, she was a young
woman who obviously had feelings of love being suppressed through her father’s protective
nature. Yet at the same time, Emily was not given choice in what and how she should love. The
choice was not hers until she was well into adulthood. By then, it seems, her decision making
capabilities were distorted even though Emily herself internally justified a decision to kill
Homer. Furthermore, there was no presence of competition under the term Oedipus Complex
with a mother-daughter conflict. Faulkner only chose to display a one sided nurturing effect.
There has to be balance when raising a child. A mother is needed as much as the father is and
vice versa. A suppression agreeing with Freud’s interpretation of something (feelings) denied
and allowed to fester will eventually rear it’s ugly head on the outside. In Emily’s case, the ugly
head being reared was her psychotic mind towards her relationship with Homer Barron.
REFLECTION
In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," Miss Emily Grierson is a lonely old woman,
living a life void of all love and affection; although the rose only directly appears in the title, the
rose surfaces throughout the story as a symbol. In contemporary times, the rose also symbolizes
emotions like love and friendship. The rose symbolizes dreams of romances and lovers. These
dreams belong to women, who like Emily Grierson, have yet to experience true love for
themselves. Throughout the life of Emily Grierson, she remains locked up, never experiencing
love from anyone but her father. She lives a life of loneliness, left only to dream of the love
missing from her life. The rose from the title symbolizes this absent love. It symbolizes the roses
and flowers that Emily never received, the lovers that overlooked her. The domineering attitude
of Emily's father keeps her to himself, inside the house, and alone until his death. In his own
way, Emily's father shows her how to love. Through a forced obligation to love only him, as he
drives off young male callers, he teaches his daughter lessons of love. It is this dysfunctional
love that resurfaces later, because it is the only way Emily knows how to love. When Homer
Baron, a construction worker, comes into Emily's life he sheds hope into her life. He offers
Emily a chance to feel love and to receive the affection she has previously only dreamed of.
Together they take Sunday carriage rides, and for awhile, the town's people seem to think that
Emily will finally wed. It appears to them that Emily has finally found her rose. Emily then sets
out to fulfill the ultimate form of the rose dream, that of marriage. She purchases "a man's toilet
set in silver, with the letters H.B. on each piece"(Faulkner 77) and "a complete outfit of men's
clothing, including a nightshirt"(Faulkner 77). However, Homer disappears when his work is
through, leaving Emily once again without a rose. Within a couple of weeks Homer, is seen
entering Emily's house late at night. Emily realizes that Homer has no plans to stay, so she
demonstrates her love the only way she knows how, by killing him. In her own way, she forces
Homer to love her and to stay with her. In doing so, Emily's rose wilts forever.