It’s the first of April, and it’s A day for the April A to Z Blog Challenge! I am going to read a short story every day and blog about it, and if I keep up with my OCD tendencies, each story will start with the letter of the day. One of my goals this week is to actually map out the stories with their corresponding days and put them in my trusty planner. The day job has had a few other ideas. For some reason, it has gone from 0 to 100 mph this month. But the challenge is on, and though I have started several times, I have yet to finish, and this is the year. Grammarly says this post sounds joyful and optimistic so far, so even that app believes in me, right?
Joyful and optimistic, that is, until I get to the actual story for today.
A is for…
A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner.
Like many folks, I first encountered this short story in middle school English class. For the life of me, I cannot figure out who thought this story would be a good idea for twelve-year-olds to read. Was this really the most accessible Faulkner available? If I remember correctly, we read it out loud, and there was a loud, collective groan at the end. Ok, maybe more like an “Ewww, how gross.”
We read the story, and the necropsy grossed us out. But what stood out to me in today’s reading was the racism and sexism prevalent throughout the story. I am not aware if it is still a required reading (I hope not!), but if it is, there have to be discussions about the rampant use of the N-word to describe Emily’s employee. And phrases like “only a woman would believe that.”
Reading it in middle school, I remember reading the story and feeling the utter disgust at the ending, the feeling Faulkner was probably trying to communicate. But now, in 2021, the story gets lost beneath the heavier clouds of racism and sexism. The Black man doesn’t even get the dignity of a name. Emily has a name, but she is the main character. Many of the men have names. But women are just, “the neighbor,” “the cousins,” “ the woman.”
Faulkner is known for his Southern writing, his connection to the land that he claims is the Southerner’s birthright. As someone who lives in Texas, I understand that connection to the landscape. But I am a bit afraid to reread his other works. They don’t seem to age well. I know it was a different time, and maybe that is part of the work, to own up to the past as we try to grow.