Abandonment in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”

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The primary character in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is Miss Emily Grierson, whose actions can be deemed as abnormal. She is a sociopath; she poisons her suitor and sleeps with his decomposing body for a long time until she dies. Emily’s dysfunctional behavior therefore makes her a appropriate candidate for psychoanalytic theory. This essay seeks to investigate what consciously or unconsciously motivates the character based on her movements that may be considered as psychotic in nature by answering the question, What motivates the persona William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”? The paper argues that Emily’s fear of abandonment after the death of her father is the main motive why she engages in some of the abnormal acts like killing her fiancé, sleeping with the corpse and isolating herself from the world.

The fear of abandonment drives Emily to kill Barron because he is planning to abandon her. According to Tyson, Emily expects Barron to marry her and that is why she arranges her bedroom like a bridal suite, buys a monogrammed for him, and other personal grooming items like hairbrushes (Tyson 91). Based on such arguments it can therefore be concluded that the only reason why she may want to murder her fiancé is his refusal to marry her. She kills the only person who had befriended her to avoid being abandoned. Furthermore, the character may not want her fiancé to leave her especially due to oedipal fixation that may make her lover to seem similar to her father who passed on sometimes back. She may perceive the fiancé as the father that abandons her by dying and hence demonstrating the aspect of Oedipus complex as postulated by Freud (Rivkin 439).

The fear of desertion is also associated with the Emily’s low level of self-esteem. Tyson hypothesizes: “…if low self-esteem is my core issue, I might develop fear of abandonment as a core issue as well. My belief that I am unworthy of love might lead me to expect that I will be abandoned eventually by anyone I love” (Tyson 93). It can be noted that Emily allows nobody to befriend her and lives in isolation and have a minimal contact with the outside world. Since they is no evidence of childhood or adulthood friends it can thus be assumed that low self-esteem or fear of being deserted made her to avoid pursuing social interactions.

The fear of being abandoned is also responsible for Emily’s obsession with the past. For instance Emily continuously denies the death of her father as indicated in the story; “….her father was not dead” (Faulkner 83). Tyson identifies denial and avoidance as one of the two primary defenses used by the character in her justification of her actions. The connection between denial and the fear of being abandoned is therefore illustrated in the refusal to let go of her past especially in accepting the fact that her father has gone away from her life. In retrospect, Emily’s actions relating to fear of abandonment are arising from avoidance and denial two main defenses as presented in the work of Tyson (94). She is seeking to avoid being emotional hurt by being deserted by the people she loves. On the same note, she denies some of her situations in life like the death of her father and her low self-esteem.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. A rose for Emily. Verlag F. Schöningh, 1958.

Rivkin, Julie. Literary theory: an anthology. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

Tyson, Lois. Critical theory today: A user-friendly guide. Routledge, 2014.

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