What We Are & Who We Should Be: Literary Realism

1174 words - 5 pages

“True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.” This quote by Jean Cocteau provides an accurate summary of realism in American literature. Authors such as Raymond Carver and William Faulkner strived to expose their readers to defects, either internal or external. Their literature puts humanity under the microscope, and allows the reader to examine their daily life from a safe distance. Under examination, many shortcomings can be uncovered. Occasionally, an author will not only reveal these flaws, but provide a practical solution. More often than not though, realists will leave it up to their reader to formulate a cure.
In A Rose for Emily, Faulkner looks back on the relationships of an aging southern belle, using third and second person narrative to comment on the happenings of the story. The title character of the story, Miss Emily Grierson, has two main relationships in her lifetime. The first, the relationship she had with her father, is described as controlling: “… that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman’s life so many times before had been too virulent and too furious to die.”(Faulkner 162) Emily’s second relationship was of a romantic nature. Her courtship with Homer Barron began with buggy rides through town and ultimately ended with his death at her hands. Even without details, it is plain to see that Emily suffered from a lack of healthy relationships in her lifetime. One present defect in the story is the inability of people to recognize and escape unhealthy relationship patterns.
A Rose for Emily, though written almost thirty years before the development of the concept, tells the story of one woman’s struggle with codependent relationships. Throughout the story, Emily exhibits many behaviors associated with codependency. The townsfolk attribute her haughtiness to a pride in her former social standing. In fact, this cold detachment is a hallmark of codependent behavior.(Mental Health America) Another characteristic of codependency is “an unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold onto a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment.” (Mental Health America) Emily is desperate to hold onto her two relationships, even in death.
After the passing of her father, Emily was in denial, refusing to relinquish her father’s corpse to the authorities. The narrator explains this incident, saying, “…we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.” (Faulkner 159) Her second relationship, with Homer Barron, also ended in death. After refusing to commit to her for one reason or another, Emily poisoned him, and kept the corpse in her home. The room in which his body was found is described as a bridal suite. In the bed, next to the body, a gray hair belonging to Emily is found. Keeping her behavior following her father’s death in mind, it can be assumed that Emily kept...

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