Historical Criticism in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner
Historical Criticism: "Using this theory requires that you apply to a text specific historical information about the time during which an author wrote. History, in this case, refers to the social, political, economic, cultural, and/or intellectual climate of the time."
Evidence/ Support for Usage of Historical Criticism:
- “And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedarbemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson”
- This shows historical criticism because it is telling the reader about Union and Confederate soldiers being buried, which relates to the Civil War. This also shows how Emily and her family had several relations to the Confederate army. The quote ties Miss Emily all the way back to her and her family’s history with the war, and the battle of Jefferson which must have been local since fallen soldiers from the battle are laid to rest there.
- “The town had just let the contracts for paving the sidewalks, and in the summer after her father's death they began the work. The construction company came with niggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, a Yankee-a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face. The little boys would follow in groups to hear him cuss the niggers, and the niggers singing in time to the rise and fall of picks.”
- This piece of text is an example of historical criticism. The author reveals the time period by referring to the era of Reconstruction, and rebuilding the South, as well as using historical diction. From this example, it is evident that the town is under construction and must recover from the effects of the Civil War. The audience can tell that the town is experiencing Reconstruction, because a Northerner (the “Yankee”) is aiding in the effort to rebuild the sidewalks. During the period of Reconstruction, many Northerners or “carpet baggers” came down to the South and helped Southerners rebuild their society. In addition to this, it is evident that the time period is after the Civil War because of the historical diction/ terminology that is used. The “n” word is implemented to describe black people, clearly indicating that racism is prevalent in society. Also, by calling the Northerner a “Yankee”, it is clear that there are still bitter feelings towards Northerners right after the Civil War.
- "Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor-he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-- remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity.”
- This quote represents historical criticism because it discusses specific historical information. Faulkner talks about how Miss Emily’s taxes were remitted which refers to the Civil War and the Old South. Due to her father being involved in the war, Colonel Sartoris allowed Miss Emily not to pay her taxes out of respect. It is also evident that there is discussion of history due to the author choosing to include the date “1984” which refers back to the Old South and describes the specific time period. The usage of the word “Negro” further indicates that Faulkner is referring to the racism in the society and the way that African Americans were described in the Old South.