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THOMAS ROBERT ARGIRO Tunghai University Miss Emily After Dark WE ENTER INTO WILLIAM FAULKNER’S “A ROSE FOR EMILY” VIA THE indeterminacy surrounding a persistent rumor. Agitated about a possible scandal, the suspicious Jefferson townsfolk fixate on Emily’s romance with Homer Barron: “‘Do you suppose it’s really so?’ they said to one another” (125). Their compulsive, perhaps prurient interest ironically reflects both presumption and doubt: “Of course it is. What else could......” (125). What else could indeed; an untold surplus of “what else” saturates this sordid tale. The town’s uncertain “whispering” (125) may be read as a multivalent signal toward the story’s manifold unresolved issues, including its overall rhetorical import. Indeterminacy operates throughout by way of a metanarrative that foregrounds this complication. My reading seeks to show in part why Faulkner trades in undecidability, dubious meaning and failed closures. Faulkner plays with the incalculable and the unimaginable as a rhetorical challenge to readers in this work and others. His odd characters confirm a “human condition in which the uncanny other, as a densely signifying representational figure, always bears the signatures ofthenarrative’saffectiveambivalenceandepistemologicaluncertainty” (Zeitlin 624). Emily may be Faulkner’s most uncanny and enigmatic figure, her mystery magnified by the story’s lack of details about her private world. We trace her struggles with personal grief, a restricted social life, socio-economic decline, and romantic misfortune, a long history of trauma and repression. Faulkner selectively conceals and reveals Emily with narrative mystifications that range from presumption to denial, thereby deconstructing received modes of interpretation through the sheer effect of negative capability. The tale’s impenetrable plot, unique figurations and double-voiced metanarrative “we” (122) subvert any definitive closure on Emily’s improbable life. Emily’s eccentric behavior is one of Faulkner’s gestures toward the unfathomable. Her intransigence runs from chasing off city officials—“I have no taxes in Jefferson” (121)—to refusing “to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it” (128). The “we” that ironically purports to “know” her only succeeds in making her more remote. She appears visible enough to the townspeople bent on 446 Thomas Robert Argiro scrutinizing her every move, yet she remains well beyond their comprehension. This irony is made more evident by Emily’s ill-fated dalliance with Homer Barron, harbinger of the tale’s deepest conundrum. Homer sweeps into town on a public works project, charming people with his outgoing personality. He hangs out with the locals and romances lonely Emily “on Sunday afternoons driving in the yellow-wheeled buggy” (124). Their dates cause gossip to erupt everywhere: “At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest” (124). Conversely, the indignantcommunityisscandalizedthatshewouldever“thinkseriously of a Northerner, a day laborer” (124). Here “we” both illustrates and sends up the town’s mystified hyper-vigilance, class consciousness, and nosiness. Yet Homer’s role in Emily’s life warrants questions about who and what he really is and whether his intentions are genuine, since by his own admission, “he was not a marrying man” (126). Hal Blythe advances that Homer may be a homosexual, and has drawn critical rebuttals for his theory.1 His view fuels further queries about what this untypical love affair may actually involve. These unresolved matters all turn on Homer’s problematical death. If he was murdered, the motive remains and may forever remain unknown.WeknowverylittleaboutHomerbeyondsomebasicphysical description and that he is “a foreman” and “a Yankee” (124). The narrator also tells us that he “liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks’ Club” (126). Blythe takes this testament as evidence of Homer’s homosexuality (49). Homer’s sexual preference is not proven, but his stated attitude toward marriage and his courting of Emily appear contradictory. There is an equal chance that Homer is straight and that he and Emily carried on a conventional love affair. The nature of their relationship is further complicated by a Baptist minister sent to interrogate Emily about her relationship with Homer: “He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he refused to go back again” (126). This is another mystery; the minister may have...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2689-517X
Print ISSN
0026-637X
Pages
pp. 445-465
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-27
Open Access
No
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