Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Student Spotlight: Pablo S

Yes, I am a bad teacher. I've completely slacked on my Student Spotlight postings for this school year. (If you're not familiar with Student Spotlight, please take a look.) Not for lack of good essays, but for the abundance of essays to grade. Grading writing takes it out of you, especially analysis. However, better late than never! I am here today with a Student Spotlight essay for you on Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily."

This essay, titled "Emily Grierson is Dixie" was written by 11th grader Pablo S, who is in my AP Literature class. Extremely bright, Pablo blows me away with his ideas and writing ability. For example, AP's summer reading assignment only needed to be 10 paragraphs answering the 10 of 18 questions they chose to answer. Pablo's came to me in essay form, all of those topics weaved together, in MLA format no less!

We read "A Rose for Emily" during our study on the effect of plot on a story. As Pauline Hopkins writes in Contending Forces, “And after all, our surroundings influence our lives and characters as much as fate, destiny or any supernatural agency.” Students always excercise our studies through essay writing, the prompt always from AP Lit tests as far back as 1970. This time around students were to choose an essay from four given to analyze the plot of Faulkner's classic. Pablo's choice was from the 2012 AP Lit test:  Choose a novel or play in which cultural, physical, or geographical surroundings shape psychological or moral traits in a character. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how surroundings affect this character and illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.

Here it is. Enjoy.

Emily Grierson is Dixie
Emily Grierson is the frustration and distortion of the cultural and physical influences of her time. Symbolically, Emily is the South. The same culture that rejects Northern ideals and morals coincide with the way Emily lived her life.  Throughout the story, Emily reacts and counteracts as a representation of the relentless post-Civil War South. It is doubtless that her psychological traits and ethics are directly corresponding to that of the old Confederate States. This is the society that constructs Emily Grierson into a “fallen monument” (1) of her community.
With a disputable statement that Emily is a full portrayal of the deep South, a new question is posed: How did a wealthy and prominent woman become a rebellious symbol? Starting with her first influence, her father, the concept is not hard to grasp. He is a renowned Southern man that had been described by the narrator and the community as “a spraddled silhouette… clutching a horsewhip” (5). Emily’s father isolates the girl and passes down a prestigious and single-minded attitude. This sets up a solid foundation for Emily to serve as a symbol for the South. Comparably, the South also isolated and saw itself as a prestigious society with its fixed political views and opinions. In turn, the cultural and geographical positions in which Emily and her father were created a parallel of attributes for Emily and the Southern society to share. 
Emily Grierson’s behavior mirrors the attitude of the beaten society she lives in. Similar to the Old South, Emily is not apt to sudden change. This is seen when “the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction” (1). Miss Emily refuses to pay taxes to these modernized officials. A simple inconvenience would not budge the prideful woman’s stance on this matter and she had demonstrated the men to Colonel Sartoris, a man who “had been dead for almost ten years” (3). Before this situation, Emily is too stubborn to believe her father’s death. In mention to her community, “she told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days” (5). To her town, she was “humanized” (5). Her father’s death exposed her as a simpler woman that the community was now more comfortable with. One cannot be distinguished and mad at the same time. This is a portrayal of the effects of the recently vulnerable culture she lives in, which refused to adapt and accept its changes after the Civil War. Similar to Emily, the South also became vulnerable after its own tragic loss in the war. Psychologically, Emily and the South have similar natures in their conduct. 
Miss Emily Grierson is not a villain, however. She is “a tradition, a duty, and a care” (1) to the people around her. Faulkner, a native of the South, does not intend for the protagonist to be an evil character. Sure, she kills an innocent man, but it is the symbolism behind it that correctly shows Emily’s innocence. Homer Barron is “a Yankee-a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face” (6). He is the icon of the North, the foe of the South Miss Emily so closely resembles. This social and energetic character creates a foil for Miss Emily. Only a year after Miss Emily’s father dies, “the town had just let the contracts for paving the sidewalks” (5).  This is an indication that Emily Grierson is the victim of the sudden changes she and her community go through, notably when Homer Barron invades and brings forth a reconstruction of the town. This is against Emily’s culture, which itself experienced a Reconstruction after the damage left by the North.
Indeed, it is possible that Miss Emily is not influenced by the cultural surroundings around her, and she merely acts in demented ways as an insane person. This argument is conceivable, but it would take away the significance of the work. Faulkner created this piece as a Southerner during the aftermath of a bloody Civil War. He uses Emily as a symbol of his heartbroken land that struggles to accept its modifications. Miss Emily does not even allow her town  to “fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it” (9). This is a simple action of a character that greatly reflects an entire region. Without the cultural effects on Miss Emily, she would simply be an introvert woman that commits a horrendous crime. The relevancy of this work is emphasized when it is accepted that Miss Emily is guided by the society she lives in. 
Emily Grierson is the result of an honored culture struggling with its uncertain future. This woman epitomizes the South’s internal conflict of a changing society. Emily receives a strong-willed backbone through her father, resembling her own home’s determined will to retain its old values. Throughout the story, Emily’s actions simulate that of the South she represents. Emily is a fallen soldier for the land she is commanded by, and when she dies, she rests “among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson” (1). Miss Emily is another fallen soldier, a victim of the developments she and her community face.
Work Cited
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and 
Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. 79-84. Print.

Impressive, right? Feel free to leave Pablo some feedback in the comments and share this post to social media using #StudentSpotlight. We'd love to hear what readers have to say!

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