“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

a rose for emily pic“A Rose for Emily”
by
William Faulkner

Rating:

In “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner tells the story of the reclusive Miss Emily Grierson, an old southern spinster from an era past.  In just a few pages, he shows the character of the curious townsfolk and, with only a small amount of dialogue from Miss Emily, hints at an understanding of her thinking and choices to cling to a southern life that has long passed.

I’m sure I read this story in school, but I’m finding how great it is to re-read something with the perspective of being older.  I don’t know if, back in high school, I could have appreciated Faulkner’s writing style and his ability to give the reader such a clear view of the personality of his characters.

Faulkner touches on the themes of change and death in “A Rose for Emily,” particularly as he shows how Emily and many people in the southern states resisted change after the Civil War.  Miss Emily wants to continue to live in a time when her family was part of the upper class and tries to do that by shutting herself inside, as reconstruction and northern influences surround her.  Faulkner also shows how she struggles to control the circumstances of death and decay, which play into the surprise ending, tying what seems to be just a descriptive detail into the final evidence of what she’s done.

If you have a few minutes to sit and relax, this short story is the perfect way to get a quick taste of Faulkner’s high quality literature!

william faulkner
William Faulkner

William Faulkner (1897-1962) was an American writer from Oxford Mississippi and is considered one of the greatest writers of American literature.  He placed many of his short stories and novels in the fictional Yoknapatwpha County, based on his own experiences in Lafayette and Holly Springs/Marshall Counties.  In 1949, Faulkner received the Nobel Prize for Literature and received the Pulitzer Prize twice (1955 and 1963), for his novels A Fable and The Reivers.  In addition to these works, Faulkner is best known for his novels The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and  Absalom, Absalom!  Faulkner also wrote poetry, essays, screenplays and two stage plays.

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Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind book cover
Gone With the Wind
by
Margaret Mitchell

Rating:

As with all great classics, I am hard-pressed to say anything original about Gone With the Wind. This is my second reading and I still love the book. If you have seen the movie, but have not read the book, read the book. There is a great deal more that will only add to your enjoyment of the story line.

Some things I did not know about Margaret Mitchell made re-reading the book all the more interesting (thank you, Wikipedia). Mitchell’s maternal great-grandfather was from Ireland and settled on a slave-holding plantation in Georgia. Her grandfather fought in the Civil War and made a lot of money in the lumber business after the war (just like Scarlett!). As a young girl, Mitchell heard a lot of Civil War stories from her relatives and visited the ruined plantations in Georgia. And, most interesting to me was that her mother was a women’s rights activist.

I think these points are important because they give you a better understanding of the characters in GWTW. And I think the most interesting point is Mitchell’s portrayal of Scarlett as a shrewd and independent businesswoman during a time when no women ran businesses or even played a role in commerce, except maybe in selling pies like Mrs. Merriwether and taking in sewing and boarders like Mrs. Elsing. (Or Belle Watling’s business. Belle’s character is also quite modern, profession aside.) Mitchell also portrays Ellen, Scarlett’s mother, as the true head of the plantation, with Gerald as a figurehead.

Although I love this book, it is difficult to read the sections about slavery and the slaves on the O’Hara plantation. The O’Haras take pride in their kind treatment of their slaves, yet their language is clearly condescending. It’s a bad part of American history and all accounts of this time-period make me very uncomfortable and ashamed.

I think Mitchell’s description of the post-war period is very good and it shows what a mess Atlanta was and how the Southern way of life known and loved by its people was forever lost. I like how the characters, particularly Melanie and her followers cling to their committees and old customs, even when the Northerners take over the city.

There are certainly many, many other points to add about the characters and the book, Melanie’s goodness, Ashley’s displacement in the new South, and Scarlett’s inability to understand and appreciate the people around her until it is too late.

I like Rhett Butler the best. He is very modern, thinking it ridiculous never to mention pregnancy and birth control. He loves children and these things make him even more appealing. You want to forget how he makes his money, his drinking and what he does over at Belle’s house because he is so likable and smooth. His flirtatious conversations with Scarlett are so fun to read, but my favorite parts are when Rhett shows his true feelings to Melanie, and sadly to Scarlett at the end.

Want more Rhett Butler?  Check out Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig

How do you feel about literature that depicts shameful periods of history? Can characters on the wrong side of thinking still be good? I have trouble with this, do you?

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