Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

? ? ? ? ?????????? ???? ? ? ????? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 17109201 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 2012. 1. 5 Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness ——A Probe into the Character of Emily A Rose for Emily is a short story written by American author William Faulkner first published in the April 30, 1930 issue of Forum.
It describes the tragedy of a typical southern lady, Miss Emily, who is deeply victimized in her character and mind by the conventional system of the South and patriarchy; thus even though she wants to fight, she still fails to confront and deal with the changes caused by the shock of northern industrialization all by herself and finally leads to destruction and self-destruction on the way of pursuing happiness.
This essay concentrates on exploring the character of Emily with the efforts she has made for her life and especially the reasons for her failure in “fighting” from the three aspects as Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, (the well-known phrase applied from the United States Declaration of Independence). 1. The Backup of Early Life As a descendent of the southern conventional noble family, Emily was born in the environment full of the thought of feudalism and hierarchy which makes her acquire not only the attitude of arrogance and indifference to common people, but, most importantly, the habit of obedience to her father.

Before her father dies, he is the only one Emily could rely on in her family. Therefore, there should be no blame to her that she depended on her father when she was still young, just as most of us would depend on our parents during our childhood and youth. However, the fact the she gets to be thirty and is still single reveals the abnormality of the dependence. Actually, it is no longer pure dependence on her father. Instead, the dependence has developed into over obedience which then is taken advantage of by her father to control her completely under the constraint of the old southern tradition.
The control is just described by William Faulkner as the tableau, “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door”. The father, a typical symbol of patriarchy, clutching a horsewhip, acts as a tyrant. It’s him who holds the Griersons always a little too high for what they really are and uses his horsewhip, which exactly symbolizes patriarchy, to beat off all of the young men who come to make proposals to his daughter, Miss Emily, believing that no one is quite good enough for her.
In fact, in his opinion, none of the young men are quite good enough not for his daughter, but for the old southern tradition and its dignity. He never regards Emily as an independent individual. On the contrary, he regards her as the tool to maintain their dignity in the conventional system. However, Emily has been regarding her father as the whole backup of her life since she was born. What’s more, she has been in this state for more than thirty years. She has long been used to this dependence and even allows this kind of dependence to conquer her strong desire for free life and love. To her, this dependence is just her whole life.
Therefore, when her father dies, she cannot accept the fact because her father is her whole dependence and the dependence is just her whole life. Her father’s death has also deprived all the hope of her life. Her father and the old tradition her father represents are the root of Emily’s tragedy; thus, her father’s death should be regarded as the chance for Emily to free herself from the constraint of the conventional system. It’s the beginning of Emily’s fighting for her own life, liberty and happiness. 2. Liberty Getting rid of her father’s control is just like releasing from a prison.
After a long time of being sick, she is seen again with hair cut short and looks like a girl, which declares the beginning of her liberty. However, Faulkner describes her as resembling to those angels in colored church windows—sort of tragic and serene. The word of “tragic” seems to have indicated the sad ending of Emily’s life even though she has the chance to gain liberty. And the reason lies on Emily’s wrong interpretation of liberty. From the description by Faulkner, after her father’s death, the character of Emily appearing before the readers is still such an arrogant and indifferent person typically symbolizing the old tradition.
It is clearly known by the readers that actually Emily never frees herself from the fetter of the conventional system even though she has gotten rid of her father’s control. However, Emily sees her liberty from a different angle. To her, liberty means to live in a way she has long been used to at her own will. Since her father died, nobody and nothing can ever take her under control any more. Therefore, she ignores all the others’ denouncing the smell of her house, vanquishes the new generation’s demanding her taxes and rejects the newer generation’s attaching a mailbox.
She still carries her head high enough—even when others all believe that she is fallen, because the way of living she has been used to is just to maintain dignity as much as she can in the environment of the old southern tradition. She refuses to free herself from the conventional system because it’s the very place she feels relatively free. In contrast, the new world with all those changes caused by the shock of northern industrialization is where she will feel unsafe, uneasy and uncomfortable.
Similarly in the film The Shawshank redemption, the two people, the old log, Brooks, and one of the protagonists, Red, have much difficulty in adjusting themselves to the life outside after they get their parole from decades of imprisonment. Brooks even commits suicide and Red can never pea unless asking for permission. And Emily has also been imprisoned for more than thirty years which has made her long ago assimilated by the old tradition. Emily has made efforts for her life and liberty after her father’s death. Unfortunately, she interprets her liberty in the way which is against the development of the new world both in aterial and spiritual aspects. And her false interpretation is still due to the over thirty years’ imprisonment of patriarchy and the conventional system of the South. 3. The Pursuit of Happiness Even though the living style has been assimilated by the convention, there is still something that everyone is born with including Emily. That is the desire for happiness. Emily lives in her own old world but all alone. She earns liberty but lacks happiness. Therefore, when Homer Barron shows up, she believes that he is the source of her happiness and makes up her mind to grasping the slight of hope.
However, the chance of gaining happiness is ruined again by the conflict between her old world and the shock of northern industrialization. What’s worse, finally she leads to the road of destruction and self-destruction by her extreme desire resulting from patriarchy and the old tradition’s severe oppression Homer Barron, a Yankee, comes from the north and symbolizes the northern industrialization, which is definitely against the old tradition and even some basic principles of Emily’s own old world such as the feature of dignity. But on the other side, he seems to Emily the hope for her happiness.
As a woman oppressed by spiritual loneliness for such a long time, the desire for love and happiness is strong enough to for Emily to conquer the continual restraint of conventional hierarchical thought. As a result, she goes out of the old house, which symbolizes the convention, with her head high and together with Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove driving in the glittering buggy on Sunday afternoons. She even decides to marry him by buying a complete outfit of men’s clothing regardless of all the objects and conflicts.
During this period, she has gradually become deeply trapped in the love and happiness with Homer Barron. She has been oppressed by patriarchy and the southern convention for more than thirty years, and now the love she is experiencing is so unique and incomparable that it has become the whole happiness of her life and that it is impossible for her to let it go. If Homer Barron isn’t going to leave her, then the love and happiness will certainly continue. However, as the symbol of northern industrialization, Homer Barron holds a completely opposite attitude towards the relationship with Miss Emily.
He just regards it as a pure way of entertainment without any responsibility, which is a sharp conflict between not only Homer and Emily, but also the morals of northern industrialization and the old southern convention. Under the pressure of the conflicts and the long-term victimization by patriarchy and the convention, Emily’s character and mind has been completely deformed. In the end, to prevent the happiness from disappearing, Emily takes drastic measures as killing Homer and let the body stay with her forever so that her love and happiness will also never leave.
This measure finally destroys her whole life and leaves her a complete tragedy as well as Homer Barron. In this extraordinary short story, the character of Emily William Faulkner created has made some efforts to earn her own life and liberty and even persist in the pursuit of happiness. However, her life is based on patriarchy and the conventional system of the South for more than 30 years; the liberty she goes after is still trapped in the old tradition; and her pursuit of happiness comes across the conflicts between the southern old tradition and the shock of northern industrialization.
All of these negative factors lead to the final tragic destruction. References Olga W. Vickery. The Novels of William Faulkner: A Critical Appraisal [M]. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964?? Fang Yigui [??? ]. ??????????????? [J]. ???????????? ,2007?? 1?? Liu Aiying [??? ]. ???????? [J]. ?????????? ,1998?? 2?? Liu Zhuo [?? ] & Peng Changliu [??? ]. ???? :??????? [J]. ???????? ,2004?? 5?? Wang Minqin [??? ]. ?<???????? >?????? [J]. ????? ,2002?? 2? ,? 66-69?? Xiao Minghan [??? ]. ??? ·??????. ?? :??????????? ,1997?

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