William Faulkner is one of the most prolific American writers of the 20th century. Faulkner seems to have a way of tabling his arguments in a simple way which makes his works of art masterpieces. A shrewd scrutiny of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” shows the art of characterization in literary oeuvres at its apogee. Characterization is one of the most fundamental elements in any fictional work of art. Through characterization, the reader is able to garner the themes of isolation and repression addressed in this work of art. This paper attempts to analyze the character trait of Mr. Grieson in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”.
Mr. Grierson is Emily’s father. Emily is the protagonist in the novel. Mr. Grierson is seen throughout the story as a controlling and looming individual even during his death. His controlling nature is evident whereby he manipulates Emily making her unable to make her own decisions in life. Mr. Grierson intentionally prevents Emily from finding a husband so that he can continue controlling her. At her age, Emily is ripe for marriage and needs to fulfill her goals in life. According to Emily, she is old enough to make independent decisions, and as a result, she needs a husband to start a family. However, according to Mr. Grierson, Emily is still a young girl who needs her father’s protection. “…there was the young girl with a young girl’s normal aspirations to find love and then a husband and a family, who was brow-beaten and kept down by her father, a selfish man who didn’t want her to leave home because he wanted a housekeeper”(21). His possessiveness towards Emily is evident in one instance the story where the author describes Mr. Grieson using the following phrase, “In the crayon portrait kept on the gilt-edged easel in the parlor and silhouetted in the doorway, horsewhip in hand, having chased off another of Emily’s suitors”(43). From this act, it is clear that Emily was already at the right age to get a husband but her father’s control and arrogance denies her a chance to even talk to his suitors. According to Mr. Grierson, none of the young men is suitable for his daughter, and as a result, Emily is not able to develop any healthy relationships with other people since her life revolved around her father.
Mr. Grierson considers himself superior to the other people living in the same suburb. Since he is the only person with a declared house, he perceives himself and his family more blessed compared to his neighbors. “…that was simply another manifestation of man’s injustice to man” (57). As an old man, who witnessed the Mexican American war Mr. Grierson seems to be torn between two worlds. Though his thoughts and perspectives about human inequality appear important in his life, the current epoch is not the most suitable era to advocate for such ideologies. As such, Mr. Grierson is living in the past despite the change that has taken place in the society. Apparently, his patriarchal nature is best elucidated an old ideology that suits the indigenous societies. However, such patriarchal prejudices whereby women are not given an opportunity to make their decision is unacceptable in Emily’s epoch. It is quite unfortunate that the reason why Mr. What Grierson doesn’t want his daughter Emily to be married is simply because he needs a housekeeper. In a way, he denies Emily the opportunity to make her life desirable and fulfill her dreams in life.
The level of injustice perpetuated towards Emily by the father reflects on the human injustices that were deeply rooted in the society. During Mr. Grierson’s era, human beings were even being sold as slaves and as such the black race was considered inferior compared to the white race. The women suffered double standards since the society that gave birth to them is the same society that violated the rights of these women. Mr. Grierson is metonymic of the kind of men that existed not only in America but across the world. According to the parents, their daughters were obliged to marry the person that the parent chose. As such, women became the fate of what their parents and even the society at large dictated upon them.
Mr. Grierson’s selfishness is thus a trait that is deeply rooted in his indigenous society. Many other characters throughout the story do not agree with Mr. Grierson on his control over his daughter, but because he is among the high class, the characters cannot question his decision and actions. Emily though is his daughter is not obliged in any way to question her father. Emily has to withstand all predicaments that are meted on her by his father. Mr. Grierson’s oppression and repression represent the fact that women have over the years been viewed as second-class citizens in their native societies.
The description of Mr. Grierson in the story is intended to portray a selfish man in an individualistic society where people do not mind about the welfare of others. He is haunted by the struggle between the past and the present which ends up tearing the present apart. Notably, Mr. Grierson has already lived his life, and as an old man, all he needs is to have a peaceful aging life as he awaits death. However, he appears not to care for the kind of life that his daughter ha to lead as a young girl. All this is best described as selfishness and greed. As an old man, other characters regard Mr. Grierson as an emblem of wisdom, and therefore they cannot question his action.
Evidently, Mr. Grierson goes a long way in influencing the character traits of his daughter Emily. When Mr. Grierson finally passes on, Emily manages to enter into a love relationship and eventually into a marriage with Homer Barron. However, after the marriage, Emily’s stubbornness later leads her to kill Homer Barron. Emily is so possessive that when she learns that Barron might have had another love affair, she opts to kill him. After the murder, Emily preserves Barron’s body in their matrimonial house for thirty years. The intention, in this case, Emily wanted to live with Barron as a dead body for the rest of her life. Such an action clearly portrays the kind of radicalization and harm that he caused his daughter due to secluding her in the house. “…that was simply another manifestation of man’s injustice to man, of the poor tragic human being struggling with its own heart, with others, with its environment, for the simple things which all human beings want”(59).
Overall, Mr. Grierson can best be described a man who is governed by self-interests and self-gains. In a way, that entire he thinks about is how he can benefit and not necessarily how to benefit others. Even on his deathbed he still dictates to Emily on what to do and how to live his life.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” New York: Harpers Collins,1930.