The language of an exploitive economy: centering women’s narratives in William Faulkner’s The sound and the fury AND Language and loss: modernity’s reckoning with failure in William Faulkner’s “A rose for Emily”

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Taylor Roberts (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Scott Romine

Abstract: In this essay I will be focusing on William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury Jason Compson’s narrative section. Contained in his narration is a violent linguistic system that commodifies women, primarily his sister Caddy Compson and his niece Quentin Compson. His exploitation and monetization of these two women turns them into a currency so they can be bartered. Jason’s patriarchal-phallocentric economy is driven by his need to acquire and hoard money. In the process, the women in Jason’s life become a means for an economic gain. This essay analyzes how Jason exploits Caddy’s desire to mother her daughter even when she’s denied access to her daughter and how Miss Quentin avoids being explicated in her uncle’s exploitive economy. Caddy’s motherhood, sexuality and economic status grant her the ability to freely maneuver through and within Faulkner’s text and Jason’s violent and manipulative tendencies. Miss Quentin is not granted the same freedoms as her mother. Miss Quentin’s stakes in Jason’s economy are much different than Caddy’s, in that she has less to lose because she has already lost her mother and her father has never been present in her life. Miss Quentin rejects her uncle because there is very little left that he can take from her. Caddy’s maneuvering isn’t always successful, but her ability is a hopeful approach to exploring spaces controlled by male speech and perspective. The fabric of Faulkner’s text unravels when Miss Quentin escapes Jason’s “economic game” in her rejection of familiar and familial ties to the Compson family. She avoids ever exchanging with her uncle. When readers and scholars focus on Caddy’s adherence to Jason’s rule of paying to see her daughter, one question lingers: what “moves” does Miss Quentin perform to destabilize Jason’s patriarchal-phallocentric economy that extend to how Caddy performs within her brother’s authoritarian economy? This pursuit of centering Caddy and Miss Quentin’s narratives is achieved through a close examination of how Faulkner’s male-centered narrative works to marginalize his female characters, while close attention to Caddy and Miss Quentin de-centers the male perspective, making the reader inclined to see the two women as subjects who are present in the novel and have a language worth hearing. AND This essay will explore in William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” the difficultly of considering personal and communal loss beyond symbolic representation. Through patriarchal-phallocentric language Miss Emily is propagated to the status of monument so far as she becomes a contact point for the men of the Southern town of Jefferson to access their past traditions of chivalry, gender, and class. An analysis of Emily Grierson is pivotal for critiquing the story’s mistreatment of her life and her losses. This paper proposes the difficulties of accessing sites of loss and trauma in the life of Miss Emily. This ultimately reveals the traditional gender and class structures that attempt stability through the language of a communal male narrator. How is Faulkner then making Miss Emily represent the loss and struggles of Southern town of Jefferson while simultaneously producing her own conflict with the loss of her father Mr. Grierson and the desertion of her lover Homer Barron? The reader cannot be tricked in feeling remorse for Mr. Grierson’s death because it’s not her father Miss Emily mourns, but the loss of a chance to marry that he prevented her from obtaining. Mr. Grierson is the suppressor of his daughter’s life and he becomes the site for her “working through” loss and trauma. This essay is organized into two parts: first, a close analysis of scenes in “A Rose for Emily” that call for close attention and scrutiny of the male-controlled depictions of Miss Emily as representing the losses endured by the South. Her symbolic status is problematized by her proximity to the story’s investment in desire and time. The second part of this essay, through psychoanalytic and feminist scholarship, attempts to undo the patriarchal-phallocentric structural tendencies of Faulkner’s narrative. These approaches and the scholars doing this work help consider the lacks in “A Rose for Emily” where Faulkner’s treatment of personal experiences does not consider Miss Emily’s unique struggle with loss and trauma as essential to the fabric of a Southern society grappling with loss on a personal and communal scale.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Exploitation, Failure, Faulkner, Loss, Motherhood
Faulkner, William, $d 1897-1962. $t Sound and the fury
Faulkner, William, $d 1897-1962. $t Rose for Emily
Women in literature
Motherhood in literature
Patriarchy in literature
Loss (Psychology) in literature

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