Setting of A Rose For Emily

In William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily,” the details which Faulkner uses to describe the setting helps the reader to understand the values, beliefs and actions taken by characters within the story. The short story takes place in the small town of Jefferson, Mississippi located in the Southern region of the United States. It becomes evident to the reader that the story occurs slightly after the Civil War after reading that Miss Emily was being laid to rest “among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson” (Faulkner, 317). Faulkner uses the physical setting as a parallel to the social change occurring during that time period and Miss Emily Grierson’s unwillingness to change with society.

In today’s society people hold different beliefs and values compared to people that were living during the Civil War era. In the short story, tax collectors of the “next generation, with its more modern ideas” (Faulkner, 317) victimize Miss Emily in the process of going to her house and confronting her about her overdue taxes. In response to this, Miss Emily talked with the mayor of Jefferson, Colonel Sartoris’; Miss Emily states that he had granted her the right to not pay taxes due to the fact that her father, who had died earlier in the story, owned the house for many years prior to the Civil War and had subsequently loaned money to the town in the past (Faulkner, 317). The town believed that Miss Emily’s father loaned money to the town as a means to evade paying taxes; however, the reader knows that this is in fact a lie because Miss Emily’s family would not have accepted this type of charity as a result of being part of higher society. The town pitied Miss Emily after she lost her father and therefore allowed her to continue not paying taxes. All members of today’s society must pay their taxes or face serious consequences; they are not given special treatment based on their social class, rank, or connections.

The town of Jefferson is a fallen legacy; it had changed and no longer was the town in which “no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron” (Faulkner, 317). The street in which Miss Emily lived was “set on what had once been our most select street” but was now becoming encroached with garages and cotton gins. The house itself, although still standing, was becoming dilapidated and no longer was in its prime condition as it once was. “Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps- an eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner, 317); although the house was still standing, it no longer fit in with the newer more industrialized buildings being built around it where the other homes have all been demolished. This is similar to Miss Emily’s unwillingness to change and not accept any change.

When Miss Emily goes to the drug store and asks the clerk for poison it is an example of how high in society she actually was. The druggist asks her what kinds she would like and she replies, “the best you have” (Faulkner, 320). The druggist allows Miss Emily to buy the poison even without an explanation of what she is using it for or anything of the sort. I do not believe that the town believes Miss Emily would harm anyone with the arsenic because they hardly knew her and they held her to such high standards.

Miss Emily reacts to the pressures placed upon her by the other people in town. She feels pressured to find a husband, settle down, and have children largely as a result of society’s customs during this time period. Miss Emily meets Homer Barron who is a single Northerner who works in construction. Homer was a man who never wanted to settle down and therefore was not the type of man meant for marrying. The town frowned upon Miss Emily’s relationship with Homer because he was a working class fellow and not good enough for her by most standards. Miss Emily was still trying to maintain the role of a southern woman. The pressures of society caused Miss Emily to use the arsenic as a means to kill her lover.

It is proven that Miss. Emily is unwilling to accept change when her father dies and when people come up to her she tells them that her father is not dead (Faulkner, 319). I feel as though the townspeople held Miss Emily at such a high standards because they looked at her as a symbol of past times and they felt her morals should be stronger. Miss Emily’s actions show that she refuses to accept change, which is symbolic of the South’s inability to move forward from slavery after the Civil War. Faulkner writes that Miss Emily rarely ever leaves her house – I believe that this fact highlights the notion that “many Southerners who lived during the slavery era didn’t know what to do when that whole way of life ended” (Schmoop Editorial Team).

Growing Up

After reading Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson” and ZZ Packer’s “Brownies” I found that both stories are comparable.   Both Bambara and Packer use young characters to highlight societies social and economic inequalities. These stories show immature characters grow into more mature people. These authors have placed these young people in more complex situations and at the end of each story, the character is able to understand society and the way things are in the more “real world”.

A young girl named Sylvia, who in the beginning of the story is reluctant to pay attention to Miss Moore’s educational events, narrates “The Lesson”. Miss Moore is a neighbor of Sylvia’s who volunteers to take Sylvia, her cousin, and a few other kids on the block, on trips around the city to educate them about the world in which they live. These children live in the slums of Harlem, and they are always thinking of illegitimate ways of attaining things. When in the taxi, Sylvia comes up with a plan that involves jumping out of the taxi so they wouldn’t have to pay for the fare; and also not giving the driver a tip because Sylvia decided “he don’t need it as bad as I do, so later for him. (56)” Miss Moore leads the children to a store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. This area is known to be wealthy and the stores along the strip contain very expensive items. Miss Moore leads the children to a store and allows them to window shop, and the children all rant and rave at which toys they want, until they start reading ridiculous prices on the tags. The children, especially Sylvia, are angry with Miss Moore for even bringing them to a store in which they cannot afford anything. Miss Moore proposes the question “Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven. (60)” Sylvia’s cousin admits to learning “that this is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don’t it? (60)” and Sylvia has too much pride to admit that something has been learned today. Or maybe she didn’t know what she had learned yet but that day at the toy store triggered something in her mind and she went to ponder about what she learned. This experience for Sylvia made her more aware of the economic inequalities, which in turn made her more mature. “She can run if she want to and even run faster. But aint nobody gonna beat me at nuthin. (60)” In these last few lines, Sylvia realizes there are other ways to succeed in life rather than jumping from the taxi so she doesn’t have to pay, or stealing something from the store.

The setting of “Brownies” takes place at Camp Crescendo which camp near the suburbs of Atlanta, for fourth graders.   Laurel, also known as “Snot”, is a young African American girl who is the narrator of the story. Another character in the story is Arnetta who is the ringleader of the brownie troop, and also likes to stir up trouble. Laurel and Arnetta’s brownie troop consists of all African American girls, and by the second day, their troop decided they were going to “kick the asses of each and every girl in Brownie Troop 909. Troop 909 was doomed from the first day of camp; they were white girls. (740)” Arnetta and Laurel, along with the rest of their troop, have never come into close contact with Caucasian girls, therefore, they stereotype troop 909 and begin to envy them. Arnetta claims she heard a white Brownie call one of her Brownie members, Daphne, a nigger; the reader knows this statement is untrue.  Arnetta didn’t stop there, she went as far as plotting revenge against the white girls: “We can’t let them get away with calling us niggers. I say we teach them a lesson. (743)” Although most of her troop did not agree with the revenge, Arnetta kept her timid peers in line by bullying them.  When they finally confront the white girl scouts, they that the girls have special needs. The confrontation was a bust, the leader of Troop 909 walked in and they tried to settle the argument. The troop leaders didn’t know whether or not the Caucasian girls really did call the other girls “niggers” because the girls did have special needs and they sometimes repeat things they hear.  On the bus ride home, the girls in Laurel and Arnetta’s troop are talking, and they are wondering why they have to go to a camp with special people; Arnetta answers: “ You know why… My mama and I were in the mall in Buckhead, and this white lady just kept looking at us. I mean, like we were foreign or something. (753)” Which leads the girls to the realization of the situation that just occurred. Laurel remembers a story her father had told her about the religious people painting their porch, and “it was the only time he’d have a white man on his knees doing something for a black man for free. (754)” Similar to when Sylvia in “The Lesson” came to the realization that there are other paths for her to take in order to succeed in life, that moment on the bus is where Laurel gets wise and matures. She states that she understands why her dad did what he did; why he, a black man, made a white family bust their behinds. Laurel says “When you’ve been made to feel bad for so long, you jump at the chance to do it to others. (754)” This is shown in the beginning of the story when Packer chooses to include that the African American children would call someone “Caucasian” if they did something that was against the norm; similar to what the whites did to them, by calling them niggers.

These two stories are similar in many ways. Not only are the narrators of both stories young girls, but through out the story, you can see their character mature, and become a little more wiser than they were in the beginning of the story. There is an indirect lesson that these narrators have learned by being put in certain situations, which causes them to further understand the society in which they live. In both stories, the African American narrators are stereotypical towards Caucasians. In “The Lesson” the children state that one must be rich in order to shop at that store, and every time they see something they would like to have, but is too expensive, they say, “White folks crazy. (59) “ as if white people were the only ones who could be wealthy enough to shop there. This is similar to the visualization in “Brownies” when it is stated “everyone had seen white girls and their mothers coo-cooing over dresses; everyone had gone to the downtown library and seen white businessmen swish by importantly…(741)” Both authors include the use of vernacular language by their characters. Although, Bambara included this style of language more often, both stories include this style because it is closest to the way one speaks; it gives the character a voice.

I feel as though both Packer and Bambara chose to put their characters in the situations that they were in because it is a reflection of our real world. Eventually children are put in situations that make them uncomfortable, and from this they must change something within themselves in order for them to overcome that feeling and be prepared for it every time is comes up again in their lifetime. Both lessons teach the girls that they cannot change the world, and what happens in it.

“The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara and “Brownies” written by ZZ Packer are comparable in many ways. In the beginning of both stories, the narrators are immature; they view and handle the situations they are in in a childish way. By the end of the stories, we see the characters “grow up” and maturely view the situation they are in find some way to explain why things are they way they are.

Barbie-Q written by Sandra Cisneros

The short story Barbie-Q written by Sandra Cisneros highlights the idea that we are exposed to societies pressure on appearance at such a young age. In this story, Cisneros displays the standards that women are held up to, and the standards that they create for themselves. As women, we are convinced that beautiful means that we must wear a size zero, have long legs, soft skin with no blemishes and a pearly white smile. Of course you have to have the nice clothes, gigantic house, expensive car, and the most appealing boyfriend. Naturally, we care about what others think of us, therefore we strive to meet their standards or we feel the need to conform to certain ideals.

Cisneros introduces two young characters and their dolls:

Yours, “Red Flair”, sophisticated A-line coatdress with a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat, white gloves, handbag, and heels included. Mine, “Solo in the Spotlight,” evening elegance in black glitter strapless gown with a puffy skirt at the bottom like a mermaid tail, formal-length gloves, pink-chiffon scarf, and mike included. (183)

In this description of the dolls, we are shown the image of the slim and perfect girl, with the perfect life and the perfect friends. These dolls appear to be rich and stylish, wearing the best clothes and have on the best accessories. It is obvious from the description that the young character dreams she could have all the possessions that her Barbie doll has, naming and describing every piece of clothing from head to toe. The young girl is walking through the flea market and as she describes each Barbie’s outfit, she dreams of herself not only in the fancy ensemble but in the lifestyle of that Barbie also. We learn early on in the story that these young girls are not very wealthy, “But that is all we can afford, except one extra outfit a piece”(184). These girls also had to wait until Christmas, not even for a new doll, but for a new outfit: “Because we don’t have the money for a stupid looking boy doll when we’d both rather ask for a new Barbie outfit next Christmas”(184). This emphasizes that these girls had to make due with what they had and appreciate it for what it is. This also gives incentive for the young girl to dream of having the stylish clothes and the glamorous lifestyle that Barbie has, because it allows her to escape the world she knows.

The flea market the girls were walking through was selling toys, but that morning, the toys were “…damaged with water and smelling of smoke. Because a big toy warehouse on Halsted Street burned down yesterday…”(184) These girls took this as their chance to finally collect more Barbie dolls. The girls don’t mind what the Barbie looks like anymore; they decide to look past the flaws that these Barbie dolls received. Cisneros ends the story:

So what if our Barbies smell like smoke when you hold them up to your nose even after you wash and wash and wash them. And if the prettiest doll, Barbie’s MOD’ern cousin Francie with real eyelashes, eyelash brush included, has a left foot that’s melted a little –so? If you dress her in her new “Prom Pinks” outfit, satin splendor with matching coat, gold belt, clutch, and hair bow included, so long as you don’t lift her dress, right? –who’s to know?(184)

These girls realize their dolls may have their imperfections but they accept their flaws because the dolls, like women, are still loved and cherished. This short story brings up the lesson that beauty is not based on the outside but what is on the inside. The young girls know of their Barbie has flaws yet they still love them and play with them.

Toys Influence Gender Roles

Character Guide:

David B. Ryan has been a profession writer for many years. His work includes various books, articles for “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.

 

David B. Ryan: “Children using feminine-typed toys, according to researchers, display nurturing traits and used toys in role play. Kids using masculine-typed toys show high levels of activity and mobility.”

 

Ryan: “The message for girls centered on appearance, including toy jewelry, costumes and play makeup”, “female signals focused on domestic skills”

Ryan: “Toys marketed for boys, including guns and soldiers, focused on fighting and aggression”, “Other male messages included competition, excitement, and an element of danger”

Works Cited

Ryan, David B. “What Messages About Gender Roles Can Be Associated With Toys”. http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/messages-gender-roles-can-associated-toys-35738.html, 16 Feb. 2014.

 

The American Dream

Each of us has heard of the American Dream, but do we truly know what that dream is? The American Dream is common to all people in that everyone hopes for positive change and that the change deals with our place in society. Everyone has a different view on the American dream, but everyone aspires for it even if it is hard to accomplish. And like many people have different views of what the American Dream is, people also argue whether or not this dream is still attainable; and if it is, is it worth it?

For generations, families have come to America in hopes of a better life and success. For me, I envision a big house, with a fancy car in the driveway, along with a beautiful family. In order to attain this dream, it is understood that one must work for it, and that it is not just handed to them. To each of us, the dream is different, therefore we take different paths and go through different struggles to get there; some attain it, however, most don’t.

John Mellencamp expresses a somewhat versatile and unique view of the dream based on class, time, situation, and society in itself, in his song “Pink Houses”. In the first stanza, Mellencamp describes what a day in the life of a poor black man would be like. Some of us would view the “Interstate runnin’ through his front yard” as a terrible thing. After all, who wants to live right beside a busy highway? However, the black man seems content to have a roof over his head and a hard working wife, regardless of where he lives. It seems as if Mellencamp subtly addresses the poverty of America as an entire body of people through the black man. He takes the time to look at the negative side of America instead of glorifying it. Even though we would not be grateful to be in this man’s position, we see that it is all he has ever known; why should this not be his dream?

In the second stanza, Mellencamp shifts views, describing the hopes and aspirations of a “young man in a t-shirt.” The young man tends to be carefree as he listens to a “rockin’ rollin station.” The young man feels as if he has reached his destination in life because he feels within himself. However, we soon learn that he was told he could become president one day, but never lived up to that expectation. Mellencamp refers to these unfilled dreams as old and crazy. I believe that what Mellencamp means by that is that the American dream is unattainable.

In the third stanza, Mellencamp reveals the point of the song. As he describes the American population, he specifically points out the ones who work in high rises and “vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico.” Perhaps these are the people each of us strive to be like. However, Mellencamp views them as knowing nothing about life or hard work because they have it easy.

The chorus is the meat of the song. In it, Mellencamp describes America as a whole. The view he offers is not a very positive one. Mellencamp speaks negatively of our country as one of being dependent on the hard work of the lower-class people to support those who run it. Because of the situations people are born into− be it poverty, wealth, hard work, or an overall simple lifestyle− Mellencamp proves that the dream is truly unique to every one of us.

Overall, Mellencamp does not view the dream as being worth achieving in the way society portrays it. To him, the dream varies based on an individual’s position in life. As society changes, so does the American dream. Everyday, people add to it. They want a bigger house, nicer car, more pets, a longer vacation or a better paying job. Is this true happiness, or a waste of time trying to fill a void that merely keeps growing? Mellencamp portrays an amazing view on how there are several different factors that affect the dream.

Today, the American dream seems almost impossible for one to obtain. Bob Herbert, a columnist for The New York Times, argues that there is “not much of it (the American Dream) that’s left anymore.” (564) Herbert doesn’t believe that the American Dream is attainable due to the fact that our country is in such a poor state:

Wherever you choose to look- at the economy and jobs, the public schools, the budget deficits, and the non-stop warfare overseas-you’ll see a country in sad shape. We’re in denial about the extent of the rot in the system, and the effort that would be required to turn things around. (564)

The point that Herbert is trying to make is that if we fail to recognize the weaknesses in our economy, how are we going to make it better? If the economy is in such sad shape, then how is one supposed to get from the bottom to the top of the social classes? Herbert brings up the problem in the public school systems, specifically in New York. He highlights the fact that there is a need to improve the public schools, however, teachers are being let go from their jobs, strictly due to budget cuts, and not on their ability to teach. Fewer teachers mean larger classroom sizes, and as a result children are not getting the best education, or one comparable to how children used to have it. As Herbert has noted, “Politicians across the spectrum insist that they are all about job creation while the employment situation in the real world remains beyond pathetic” (566). As a country, we are not doing anything to create jobs, in fact, the unemployment rate keeps increasing. Without a job, is it capable for one to attain the American dream? Herbert would say that it is time for us to open our eyes, recognize that we are not in the greatest shape as a country anymore, and a lot of effort has to be put into making this country better so that the American dream can be attainable again one day.

Herbert believes everyone has a different view on the American dream, and Cal Thomas, a panelist on Fox News Watch, has his own definition of the American dream. He claims that the American dream has created and sustained America for over two hundred years; this dream would be for each “new generation to achieve a better life than their parents and grandparents.” Like Herbert, Thomas doesn’t believe that the dream is attainable anymore due to the poor shape we are in as a country:

Setting aside war, which was imposed on America, the eclipse of liberalism’s American dream has been largely caused by expanding, encroaching, over-taxing, over-spending and over-regulating government. This has produced a country of government addicts with an entitlement mentality. These twin maladies have eroded self-reliance, individual initiative, and personal accountability. A monopolistic government school system keeps the poor man from achieving their dreams… (Thomas, 568)

Thomas views the American dream as simply unattainable due to the way the government is ran. The government is set up to keep the poor man down while it encourages and helps the rich get richer. He agrees with Herbert in the fact that we, as a country, fail to recognize that we are in such a deep hole, and it is going to take hard work to turn things around. It is understood that it will take time and effort to get things back to the way they used to be, however, if no one takes initiative to make things better, it prevents the fulfillment of the American dream.

I would have to agree with Thomas’ claim: the economy is at a place where it is very difficult for an individual to truly succeed. In todays society, with many people losing their jobs due to budget cuts, people are living day by day, pay check to pay check, and it is no longer a dream to have a big mansion with the expensive car in the drive way; at this point the dream is simply unattainable. Herbert does bring up a point where he states, “it is time to open our eyes” and see that we are in such poor shape. I believe many people do recognize that our economy is plummeting, however, I believe that the only individuals who recognize it are the ones who are in jeopardy of losing their job, or their house, and the ones who do not have much power to make a change. Close to seven in ten Americans think people who work hard still have a hard time maintaining their standard of living and cannot get ahead.(Marist Post.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. “Hiding from Reality.” They say / I say: the moves that matter in academic writing. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010. 564-567. Print.

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. “Is the American Dream Over.” They say / I say: the moves that matter in academic writing. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010. 568-571. Print.

“Pink Houses.” Lyrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johncougarmellencamp/pinkhouses.html&gt;.

 

“Marist Post.” unattainable. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014. <http://maristpoll.marist.edu/214is-the-american-dream-still-attainable/ keyword…>.

Toys Influence Gender Roles: An Annotated Bibliography

Throughout society there are many influences that play a critical role in the development of gender roles.  Children’s toys are an example of an influence that is easily seen within today’s society and has a large effect on gender roles. Children learn roles and skills from playing with they toys that they are given. These toys determine to some extent which roles and skills they learn. When children play with these toys it teaches them how girls and boys should function in society when they get older.  When one walks into a toy store, there is an obvious separation between girls’ toys and boys’ toys, and this separation of toys emphasizes the separation of duties that men and women must carry out.

Sweet, Elizabeth “Guys and Dolls No More?” Nytimes.com. New York Times, 21 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

Elizabeth Sweet’s “Guys and Dolls No More?” highlights the idea that toys for children are marketed by gender.  Toys marketed to young boys are extremely different from those that are marketed towards young girls. Girls are encouraged to play with dolls, kitchens and vacuums; while boy toys are cars, guns, tool-kits and sports related. Sweet, talking about the Lego Company, states, “The girls’ sets are more about beauty, domesticity and nurturing than building — undermining the creative, constructive value that parents and children alike place in the toys.” The separation between “boy toys” and “girl toys” influences gender roles in society such as Sweet claims, “The ideas about gender roles embedded in toys and marketing reflect how little our beliefs have changed over time.”

Elizabeth Sweet is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Davis.

Abadi, Ponta “Kids’ Toys: More Gendered Than Ever” MsMagazine.com. 5 June 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2014

Ponta Abadi argues that children’s toys are more gendered now more than ever before. Abadi states that toys are sold in sections based upon gender and ultimately teach children their role in society. Abadi states ““Boys’” toys tend to involve aggression, such as toys that make punching or crashing sounds, while “girls’” toys often revolve around beauty and domesticity.” Many believe that these toys shape children’s futures, such that, girls will cook and clean and boys will do the dirty work.

Ponta Abadi, an alumna of the University of Oregan’s School of Journalism and Communication, was the print managing editor, copy chief, and copy editor for the Oregon Daily Emerald.

Ryan, David B. “What Messages About Gender Roles Can Be Associated With Toys”. Everydalife.globalpost.com 16 Feb. 2014.

David B. Ryan states that children’s toys shape the way that child will become. Ryan believes children that play with “feminine-based toys display nurturing traits and use those toys in role play.” The same goes for “masculine-typed toys that then show high levels of activity and mobility.” There are stereotypes for men and women that Ryan writes about; women are “supposed to be” domesticated, while boys and men are typically aggressive, says Ryan.

David B. Ryan has been a profession writer for many years. His work includes various books, articles for “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.