Argumentative Essay On The Emotional Burden Of Women
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Mankind’s fear of abandonment, which begins the very moment a human being is born, is carried in the heart of every woman. The outer shell of ethnicity, social status, or occupation is merely a disguise for the same fear within. Control is the means by which every woman attempts to deny the existence of this fear while extinguishing its debilitating effects. Instead of feeling a slave to man’s affections and the security only he can offer, a woman can deny their attraction to men and choose homosexuality; she can lose herself in work and attain power and prestige over the men who first made her feel like a victim; she can marry a man and seize control over his manhood by binding him to children and a mundane breadwinning job. William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” goes beyond the mere tale of a stark madwoman and penetrates into the dark corners of a woman who appears curiously overwrought on the outside but is actually poignantly representative of the female psyche as a whole.
The residents of Jefferson partake in a voyeuristic relationship with the peculiar life of Emily. Ironically, all of their lurid surmising about her behavior does not reach the pinnacle of what is found at the end of the story. Upon her death, they attend her funeral under the guise of respect and honor, but really only to indulge their insatiable curiosity about the inner-life of the revered madwoman. It is part of human nature to be curious about that which seems separate from us: the habits of the insane being seen by the poised eyes of the normal. In the safety of their distance, the onlookers are often completely blind to the fact that their meddlesomeness exposes both their connection to the bizarre behavior as well as the depth of denial and dismissal that permits them to look without fear of conviction. The intense attention upon which the residents of Jefferson look upon Emily reveals the ways in which people can become utterly lost in their own delusions and storytelling, all the while escaping from their own versions of depravity and derangement. The distancing between Emily’s mind and their own psyches allows the onlookers to explore lurid facets of their own personality, which are so buried in the deep corridors of their minds that they have not even begun to see the parallels.
One of Emily’s peculiar merits was the strength and stubbornness with which she held onto her self-made world. In her self-created dimension of existence, she feels no need to pay taxes or even follow simple conduct such as describing the reason for her purchase of poison. The climax of this denial occurs when she kills the man who not only shows her the only other form of love she knows, but also who represents the very modernization that threatens to dismantle her world. She thus demonstrates the ultimate sense of control. The timeless vacuum with which she lived in until her death represents the worlds we create within our own minds. While on the outside she stood as a pennant of the Old South, representing the last whispers of former charm and reputability, her death alternatively symbolizes the power of the new order over old social ways, no matter how intently held onto. In the same way, no matter how strongly one fixes him or herself in one way of living, reality will eventually come upon him or her in the great equalizer of death. Even Jefferson’s onlookers offered their sympathies to Emily when her father passed: “We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.” Without her father, nothing remained for Emily in the sense of meaning and purpose. Even the onlookers could not dismiss her reaction as mere insanity and hysteria.
We unwittingly mirror the love that we were shown as a child, and Emily’s emotional habits upon her death reveal the same psychological tendency (“Then we knew that this was to be expected too; as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die”). Emily’s inability to accept her father’s death and her obstinate latching onto the male figure who had controlled her life (“She told them that her father was not dead”) reveals the only form of love that she was used to: one that consisted of extreme control. The reader becomes aware of the overpowering effect that male presence has in Emily’s life (“After her father’s death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all”). The unbalanced and excessively tragic nature of her behavior actually hides, like the dusty house in which she inhabited, the true inner-workings of a woman who could not bear the thought of being without a strong paternal figure, especially when he was the only person who she believed loved her. In the end, the strand of gray hair symbolizes the sometimes unthinkable means with which people attempt to secure safety and meaning. The outwardly eccentric persona of this woman shrouds the similar thread that interlaces throughout every human life: that of deciding how to obtain the optimal amount of happiness.
As Emily passed unchangingly from generation to generation—“dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse”—so, too, does the emotional affliction of every woman carry itself through every era. The greatest need in every woman is not just to be loved, but to be loved right. The promise of true commitment and being loved for who she really is in spite of whatever happens is the greatest gift that every woman seeks to find. Emily’s dark and dusty house, which hid the true motives of an outwardly insane woman, reveals the same ways in which every woman hides her true need under the guise of outward personality. Ultimately, “A Rose for Emily” takes what first appears as the story of a woman who did not understand how to live within normal societal boundaries, and delves into the deeper implications of what it is to be a woman and the ways in which a female can find the love she was created for in a world that often does not understand and therefore dismisses her true nature.
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