Free Comparing Faulkner And Plato Through Literary Elements Essay Example
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Plato’s “The Myth of the Cave” are very different stories in almost every way. Faulkner wrote about the physical and mental decay of an upper class woman from a bygone generation, and Plato wrote about philosophical knowledge versus worldly needs in the governing of society. The stories were written thousands of years apart and the elements of the stories illustrate the passage of time between them. A comparison of the theme, setting, style of writing, and characters display how different the stories are; however, both stories include descriptive imagery that enhanced the understanding of the stories and their themes.
Faulkner’s theme in “A Rose for Emily” was about the decaying upper class clinging to the old ways. Even though Emily had no money or position she demanded obedience; whether that be from city officials demanding taxes or a druggist who needed to know the intention of buying arsenic (Faulkner). In these situations Emily considered herself above the law, and refused to be treated as everyone else was. Emily held her head high and retreated from the world rather than demonstrate that she was anything less than she considered herself to be, and in the end the reader learns how disturbing her fantasies had led her to become with the discovery that she had been sleeping next to a dead man for decades (Faulkner). Faulkner told the story with the opinions and views of the townspeople so that the story showed how the general view of the decaying upper class changed.
Plato’s theme in “The Myth of the Cave” was about rising above worldly needs and opinions, and gaining wisdom and knowledge apart from the methodical daily grind of simple survival. The gradual enlightenment of intellectual knowledge was discussed between two men and agreed upon as an understanding of good (Plato). Once someone gained this intellectual enlightenment, however, they were above the concerns of the common world and did not have the inclination or understanding to return to their former state of ignorance. Plato wrote this philosophical discussion to illustrate the differences in view and understanding of those with and without wisdom. Those without wisdom or knowledge mock and look down on those with knowledge who cannot immediately grasp common needs (Plato). Yet when those with knowledge grow accustomed to common life again, Plato said they could comprehend the needs of common life far better. Plato wrote this discussion of knowledge to promote philosophers, and those with wisdom, as the most suitable rulers because they would rule for the greater good rather than for their own welfare.
The setting and style of writing in Faulkner and Plato’s stories were very different and showed the influence of each time period. “A Rose for Emily” was set in a southern town several decades after the civil war (Faulkner). This setting was never directly stated, but Faulkner alluded to a cemetery full of confederate soldiers and the oldest men in the town who wore their confederate uniforms for Emily’s funeral. “The Myth of the Cave” was set in ancient Greece and was most likely at a school or place of learning (Plato). This was implied by the speakers, and the topic of democracy and who were the best candidates to be chosen to rule. Socrates was a philosopher and teacher, and the discussion took the form of a lesson through logical argument. Plato’s style of writing in “The Myth of the Cave” was incredibly intellectual and philosophical. The terminology itself was not difficult to read although the language was very formal, but the meaning and philosophical reasoning required focus and deeper contemplation to understand. On the other hand, Faulkner’s style of writing in “A Rose for Emily” was a narrative that was easy to follow and understand. Faulkner’s writing was still intelligent and clearly educated, but offered more descriptions and dialogue rather than philosophy and logic. This difference between narrative and philosophical discussion also resulted in very different characters in each story. Faulkner’s characters were mainly the townspeople and Emily, although Homer Barron was the one link between these two parties. However, Plato’s characters were only Socrates and Glaucon, teacher and student, whose dialogue constructed the story.
One element that both Faulkner and Plato skillfully used to tell their story and illustrate their theme was imagery. In “A Rose for Emily” Faulkner repeatedly described Emily’s appearance with descriptive imagery, and used similes to describe her eyes and face. When she was at the druggist and extremely thin Faulkner described her skin as being “strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper’s face ought to look” (86). Decades later when she was she was much larger he wrote that “her eyeslooked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough” (Faulkner, 83). Faulkner also repeatedly compared Emily’s image in the window to that of an idol to illustrate how unmoving her attitude and presence was. Faulkner also alluded to the dust overwhelming Emily’s house whenever the inside was described, and this further alluded to Emily’s aging and decay.
Plato used imagery in “The Myth of the Cave” to illustrate the entire philosophical discussion. The “prisoners” in the dark cave who could only see their shadows were ignorant men who did not know real truth (Plato, 515). However, the men who rose out of the cave and saw the sun and “real existence” had gained knowledge and wisdom and realized what truth was (Plato, 515). Plato’s analogy of light as wisdom was described vividly through the image of a man emerging from darkness and slowly growing accustomed to light, and then returning to darkness where he was blinded until he could grow accustomed to the darkness again. This analogy displayed Plato’s theory of why philosophers were different from regular men, and his imagery conveyed the analogy in a logical and comprehensible way.
Comparing Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Plato’s “The Myth of the Cave” illustrate the different elements each author used to tell their stories. Many of these differences such as theme, setting, and style of writing, may have been due to the several centuries of time that passed between when each was written. However, both writers still used imagery as a successful tool to explain their messages and demonstrate their themes. While Faulkner narrated a sad and disturbing story of a women clinging to a different time, Plato philosophized a sad and disturbing condition of the mind without wisdom.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. 82-88. Print.
Plato. “The Myth of the Cave.” The Republic. PDF file. http://deakinphilosophicalsociety.com/texts/plato/caveallegory.pdf
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