Monday, September 15, 2008

"A Rose for Emily" Point of View Paper

Emily Chiavelli
AP Lit
Mr. Gallagher
14 September 2008
Use of Point of View in “A Rose for Emily”

In his short story, “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner intends to convey a message to his audience about the unwillingness in human nature to accept change and more specifically the secretive tendencies of aristocrats in the South during the early 20th century. In order to do this, Faulkner sets up a story in which he isolates and old aristocratic woman, Miss Emily, from her fellow townspeople and proceeds to juxtapose her lifestyle with theirs. In doing this he demonstrates her stubborn refusal to change along with the town, but also Among several literary devices the author employs to achieve this contrast, Faulkner sets up his narrator as a seemingly reliable, impartial and knowledgeable member of the community in which Miss Emily lives by using a first person plural, partially omniscient point of view. The narrator is present for all of the scenes that take place in the story, but does not play any role in the events, and speaks for the town as a whole.

Faulkner immediately sets up his narrator as a member of the community in the first line of the story, saying that when Miss Emily died “our whole town went to her funeral.” Although it’s never directly explained, it appears as though the narrator is an older member of the town. This is demonstrated in statements like “the next generation, with its more modern ideas;” because the narrator does not say “with our more modern ideas” he makes it clear that he is not one of the younger members of the community. Never referring to himself as “I,” the narrator builds up an army behind his ideas, along the same strain of thought that there is strength in numbers; his opinions seem true, as they are the widely accepted as fact.

The use of an older member of the community as a narrator allows Faulkner to employ flashbacks to explain Miss Emily’s life, as his narrator was there to witness them himself and can be trusted to explain them correctly. The background information is crucial not only to the plot but to understanding how the townspeople perceived Miss Emily and how this perception evolved over time; the residents of Jefferson went from idolizing her to feeling “really sorry for her” to being happy for her. A few of the only times, however, that the narrator uses “they” instead of “we” is when talking about how the community gossiped about Miss Emily; for the most part, the narrator seems neutral or even slightly sympathetic toward her, and never passes judgment on her life or her mistakes. Also, because he is older, like Miss Emily, and is not totally unwilling to accept social changes, Faulkner contrasts Miss Emily directly with the narrator.

The author immediately begins to isolate Miss Emily from the rest of the town upon describing her house; she is clearly wealthier than many of the current residents of Jefferson, and appears to be the only member of town who has not yet conformed to a more modern living arrangement. The imagery the narrator uses to describe how the they viewed Miss Emily’s home evokes images of old, almost Gothic decor in the reader-phrases like “dank,” “heavy, leather-covered furniture,” and “gilt tarnished easel.” The depiction of her home is clearly symbolic of her “old world” mindset. The narrator then takes her public image one step further by explain how Miss Emily is a “hereditary obligation upon the town;” not only is Miss Emily put on a symbolic pedestal by the townspeople, but it becomes clear that she is gingerly dealt with and never bothered, further isolating her from the community because of her family’s wealth and social status.

Because Faulkner chooses to limit his narrator’s omniscience, he is able to tell the story as a mystery; this is both logical, as the story is told post-mortem and therefore could not be told from the main character’s point of view, but it also adds drama and suspense to the story. The reader is never enlightened to Miss Emily’s thoughts or feelings, and therefore is subject to believing anything the narrator says. Only at the end are Miss Emily’s secrets revealed, all at once, adding gravity and evoking feelings of shock in the reader, dramatizing and exaggerating her secretive tendencies.

Much of Faulkner’s writing deals with the social customs and habits of Southern aristocracy; in “A Rose for Emily,” Faulkner uses Miss Emily as a symbol of Southern aristocrats as a whole. Miss Emily is clearly completely isolated from the town because of her habits and lifestyle choices. By using his narrator to represent the rest of the town, Faulkner easily isolates Miss Emily from everyone else; in doing this, Faulkner demonstrates the chasms in lifestyles of working people and aristocrats. Only once Miss Emily dies do her traditions die with her, symbolic of any generation and the changes that must take place for the newer generation. Because Miss Emily has so many skeletons in her closet (metaphorically) it demonstrates Faulkner’s contempt for the secretive, above-the-law attitude of arrogant upper-class citizens.

Monday, September 8, 2008

summer blogs: remains of the day part 3

To answer Stevie Wonder...'s question, I think that that moment was a "turning point" in their relationship because it was another instance in which Stevens cut off Miss Kenton emotionally. I thought that it was simply another missed opportunity for Stevens to show his feelings for her.

I have to say, however, that overall I found the book a bit boring.

The ending was sad, however, and I didn't think the reason for that was so much because of Stevens' regrets. I found it sad becuase, in a matter of five days of self-reflection and reflection on Lord Darlington's dignity, Stevens realized that his whole life had been basically a sham. Because Stevens was so dedicated to his profession, the validity and importance of which is now questioned, it appears as though he had lived for nothing.

It was also a bit depressing that Stevens clearly misinterpreted Miss Kenton's slight unhappiness as a sign that she wished to come back to Darlington Hall, and possibly to be with him; this was simply wishful thinking on his part. It didn't really surprise me, however. Also, when he discussed Miss Kenton were the only times Stevens showed any sort of emotion; when she told him she had no intention of coming back to work, he confessed deep pain to the reader for the first time in the novel.

summer blogs: remains of the day part 2

To repond to thalp's question of Stevens' dignity: I found it ironic that, as thalp said, Stevens denied working for Lord Darlington. If anything, the more dignified thing would have been to defend his employer's honor, if he felt that Lord Darlington was worthy of it. It reminded me of how, earlier in the novel, Stevens Sr. "defended" his employer to the drunk men; becuase Stevens Sr. was new to the household and assumably knew little to nothing about his new employer, he really had no reason to consider his employer worthy of defending. I wonder if Stevens really finds Lord Darlington dignified or he feels it is his duty as a butler to at least pretend to find him so. So far, it seems as though we've seen few qualities in Lord Darlington that make him appear honorable.

I agree completely with jlam09 that Stevens is clearly using professional reasons as an excuse to see Miss Kenton; it seems convenient that the professional reasons to see her emerge just after her marriage has fallen apart. I don't know if Stevens will ever get past his inability to form relationships, even after being reunited with Miss Kenton.

Also, as thalp pointed out, Stevens does appear to have some feelings of regret. This seems to be one of the only clear emotions we have seen out of him thusfar.

summer blog: remains of the day part 1

When I consider Stevens' persona, a "chicken or egg" question comes to mind; is Stevens' lack of social ability due to his preoccupation with his job, or is he preoccupied with his job becuase he lacks social ability? (or perhaps he simply lacks the desire to interact socially?)

I think Stevens' extreme formality is best demonstrated in his recalled conversation with his father on pages 64-66. For example, Stevens adresses his father as "Father" rather than "you," even when speaking to him. Perhaps this is an attempt to impress his father, to whom he clearly aspires to be like; as Stevens stated earlier, his father did not speak eloquently or have a firm grasp of academic subjects.

Also, I agree with kevien that there are constant implications to Stevens' lack of willingness to move forward and accept change. Becuase of this, a particular statement he makes at the beginning of the novel-"there is no virtue at all in clinging as some due to tradition merely for its own sake" (7)-is becoming increasingly ironic.

Remains of the Day paper

Emily Chiavelli

AP Literature

Mr. Gallagher

August 31, 2008

Stevens’ Quest in Remains of the Day

While perhaps not seemingly the typical “quester” character, Kazuo Ishiguro turns his protagonist in Remains of the Day, Stevens, into just that. As stated in Thomas Foster’s How to Read Literature Like A Professor, traditionally younger people are prime characters to embark on quests. (3) Stevens, however, is a post-middle aged, painstakingly formal, self-proclaimed dignified English butler. But because Stevens was, essentially, born into his profession, it is all he has ever known; his father was also a butler, “mercifully free of confusions of professional values.” This sheltered life and some level of naivety puts him on par with teenagers and young adults in terms of self-realization, therefore making him perfectly suitable to take such a journey.

Structurally, every quest must have a destination. (Prof. 4) In Remains of the Day, the physical layout of Stevens’ journey is very simple; he intends to take a road trip across England. Over the course of 6 days, Stevens intends to see as much of the English countryside as possible, eventually ending up in West Country, England.

The next essential part of a quest is a “stated reason” for embarking on said quest. (Prof. 4) In Stevens’ case, there are several factors pushing him to take this journey. It begins with Mr. Farraday, Stevens’ employer, suggesting that Stevens take some time off in order to relax and enjoy the countryside. Stevens also became enamored by the region he intended to visit upon looking through the “marvelous descriptions and illustrations” (12) in a travel guide by Jane Symons. However, neither of these factors completely convince Stevens to take his journey; the real reason behind Stevens’ leaving (or so he believes) is to visit Miss Kenton, an old colleague, after receiving a letter that he believes contains “distinct hints of her desire to return [to Darlington Hall],” (9) Besides his feelings that Darlington Hall is understaffed and although it goes unstated, it seems as though Stevens has romantic feelings toward Miss Kenton, and is excited to see her as he believes that her marriage may be coming to an end.

Despite some small difficulties, such as car troubles and literal obstacles such as animals in his path, (68) most of the obstacles Stevens encounters are not physical, present problems on his journey. Considering his end goal for the journey is to be reunited with Miss Kenton, bring her back to Darlington Hall and possibly have some sort of romantic relationship with her, he recounts several stories from decades ago that prevent that from ever happening. Not only did Stevens prove unresponsive to any advances Miss Kenton may have made-for example, the scene in which Stevens was reading a love story and it was apparent that Miss Kenton was “flirting” with him- he also proved to her several times that he was incapable of having a loving, emotional relationship with anyone. This was clear when Stevens’ father died, and Stevens chose to continue about his work as if nothing had happened. Stevens was consistently rude and condescending when talking to Miss Kenton, as demonstrated on page 53 when he chastises her as one would a child or someone lower in superiority for calling his father by his first name. His social ineptitude is probably the most clear and omnipresent obstacle in completing his quest.

As in every quest, (Prof. 4) Stevens’ journey had the unstated purpose of self-discovery and reflection. Throughout the novel, Stevens had been obsessed with the idea of dignity. Dignity was the one thing he strived for above all else, and he believed it was achieved in dedication to one’s profession and loyalty to one’s employer. However, toward the end of the book Stevens begins to realize that his life may not have been as fulfilling as it could have been because of his undying desire to possess what he at one time considered dignity. Not only does Stevens realize that Lord Darlington perhaps does not deserve the place on the pedestal that Stevens gives him, but that in devoting his life to blindly following a man does not necessarily make him as dignified as he once believed. Among other things, it is revealed on page 137 that Lord Darlington was an anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer, qualities that do not necessarily embody the idea of proper decorum that Stevens holds. Stevens is forced to reconsider his definition of the word “dignity,” a word that had been the basis of his professional career and personal life for so many years.

The novel does not end on a positive note, and in fact the ending has a somewhat sad tone; for Stevens, self-realization came too late. (A clue as to why quests are generally left to younger characters.) At this point in his life, he has made all of his mistakes and it is too late to undo them. He will return to Darlington Hall and attempt to incorporate his discoveries into his future work-he even plans on trying to banter with Mr. Farraday- but is distraught by all of the time he essentially wasted. The novel ends proving that a quest, although always taken in order to gain self-knowledge, (Prof. 3) does not always lead to positive change for the quester.