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Tragic Heroes

In: English and Literature

Submitted By adeolam
Words 2596
Pages 11
Adeola Mike-Irabor
English 1302: Composition 2
David Glen Smith, Instructor
November 29, 2012
Research Paper
Miss Emily Grierson and Eveline
The family and society’s expectation of a woman has led to some women becoming tragic heroes and anti-heroes who battled consistently with their true identity. Literary works of William Faulkner in the short story, "A Rose for Emily", and James Joyce’s "Eveline", reflects the negative impact of these expectations. Based on information, culled from Dr David Smith’s notes, tragic heroes are driven and obsessed with past deeds or by fate, they are neither entirely good nor entirely bad and are fated to cause grief to individuals or to the community, they are often leaders in the community or head of family (2). Faulkner shows these common traits of tragic hero in Miss Emily Grierson; a protagonist in self-exile from the modern world, locked away in her decaying mansion (3). In James Joyce’s Eveline, a protagonist is revealed as tragic hero who endures a dramatic and tragic life full of conflicts, but Smith thinks otherwise, he refers to her as an anti-hero and is of the opinion that antihero should not be confused with tragic hero because, “existentialist believed modern life does not allow the existence of a true hero. Modern life dehumanizes everyone”(3), short of this, Eveline is a classic example of a tragic hero. William Faulkner’s Miss Emily and James Joyce’s Eveline are women who in the quest of fulfilling the roles assigned to them by their family, lover, and society, cost them happiness and freedom. Faulkner in his short story, “A Rose for Emily” shows in a complex chronological sequence, the confliction between the past and present in a southern gothic style. Miss Emily Grierson, a old spinster, who was well respected in her town of Jefferson. Smith writes, “Her will is so strong, she rejects the notion of death. And likewise, despite the fact the town paints her as a symbol of the old ways, she acts against the traditional view of a “proper southern lady” courting a man out of her class despite public opinion…… She represents their history.” She would be considered, a sort of leader in her time, she was the last of her great family. “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town”(287) shows, that the town had some sort of respect for her. Miss Emily exhibits a lot of traits of a tragic heroes; she is a person to whom reality has eluded. She refuses to pay taxes claiming to have an exemption. She is unaware that the world had changed since she was caged in her mansion. She fought to death with her flawed belief. Her past, as the respectful and obedient daughter to a strict and selfish father, placed a lot of burden on her. Emotionally and psychologically eventually, she loses her mind. Her later years were affected mainly by role assigned to her by her father. Faulkner concludes the story on a macabre note, using the southern gothic style. “Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair”(293). Obviously Miss Emily realized that she is doomed and may never find love, she becomes deluded as she murders her lover and lives with his decomposing corpse. Eveline, a young Irish girl who lived in Dublin is the main character in James Joyce’s short story, called "Eveline". She is also a protagonist like Miss Emily in Faulkner’s "A Rose for Emily.” Eveline’s mother also died when she was young. She felt she owed her mother the duty to take over her motherly role in their home, since she made a vow to her mother on her dying bed. As Joyce writes, “Strange that it should come that very night to remind of the promise to her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could. She remembered the last night of her mother’s illness”(6). Eveline was responsible for the care of two younger Children and an abusive father. Invariably, she is now the mother and wife. She fell in love with a man named Frank, who offered an opportunity of change, "She was about to explore another life with Frank. Frank was very kind, manly open hearted. She was to go away with him by the night-boat to be his wife and to live with him in Buenos Ayres where he had a home waiting for her"(5). Initially, she agreed to leave with Frank believing he is her savior as Joyce reveals, “Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her. He will give her life, perhaps love too. But she wanted to live” (6). Just like the other tragic heroes and antiheroes she will not leave with her “savior”, Frank. Eveline remains in Dublin. She could have chosen to leave with Frank to start a new life and break away from her past, but just as she was ready to take the offer; the human vs. self-conflict sets in. As Warren Beck puts it in his critical essay, “ a far journey is projected but the timid protagonist, paralyzed by ambivalence at the moment of embarking from Dublin’s North Wall, never sets out.” She is fated to cause grief to herself.
Faulkner uses the first person plural in a complex chronological manner, using the southern gothic style of macabre to present the story of Miss Emily. Though the gender of the narrator was not revealed in the story, “our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of the house”(287). It is assumed that narrator is woman, a “town gossip” who is in the know of everything happening in the town of Jefferson. Thomas Klein observed the narrator did not have an allegiance to a particular generation. Laura J. Getty defines the Rose in “A Rose for Emily” as a symbol of secrecy with mythological and religious connotations. She went further to explain that just as story chronology is complex so also the title. Faulkner utilizes various human senses of smell, sound and sight to further involve the reader in the plot when he described the house of Emily; “it smelled of dust and disuse – a close, dank smell” (288). While Joyce uses the third person point of view incorporating the narrative technique of stream of consciousness to tell the story of Eveline. According to Smith, “ looking through the window the action recreates memory of the past. Likewise, it shifts the reader into further atmospheric elements, plus moves the action into the particular thoughts of Eveline as an interior monologue (or stream of consciousness). Unlike Faulkner, there is less complexity in the chronology. Joyce also uses the human senses, the sense of smell; ”her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odor of dusty cretonne”(4). “she was again in the close dark room at the other side of the hall and outside she heard a melancholy air of Italy;” the sense of sound. He also reveals the random thoughts and feelings that Eveline experiences at a single moment. Beck explains that the reader feels close to the characters, almost as if they could see inside the character’s heads.
Both characters, Miss Emily and Eveline were heavily affected by the roles their fathers played in their upbringing after the death of their mothers. These two men are their main antagonists.
Though Eveline’s father was still alive when she got the opportunity of changing her destiny . Emily based on her circumstances and setting never got a get -away opportunity rather she became disillusioned and withdrawn acting strangely refusing to accept changes and move on with life. May be Emily’s story would have been different if she was able to keep a relationship like Eveline did, “They learnt from their mistake, but this fact can not save them from their fate”(2), Yes, Eveline had a better opportunity of escaping from her antagonist but she was unable to use it, another trait of tragic Hero.
Emily’s father chased way all suitors under the disguise of protection. “We remember all the young men her father had driven away” (290), “None of the young were quite good enough for Miss Emily”(289). Emily ‘s father was a selfish man who kept her from having relationships because he saw in her the perfect housekeeper he needed. Even after his death she still could not keep any relationship with men, her lovers came and left because of the way her father treated her. There was no record of Emily having friends and living the normal life of a young girl, so basically, her father was the only companion or friend she knew. The narrator went further to show that, there was no family member with whom she had relationship, her father had quarreled with them, “she had some kin in Alabama; but years ago her father had fallen out with them…”(289). When her father died the people of Jefferson understand why she acted the way she did. “We did not say she was crazy then. ….We knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which robbed her as people will”(289). Her father had robbed every opportunity of living a normal life, so even in death, he was all she knew. Smith also shows her as “a character, to whom reality and illusion blur”(5). She refused to acknowledge the death of her father whom she pictured as her protector and friend, he meant a lot to her; he was the only man in her life. He simply cannot be dead. She went further to tell the town people he was still alive. Obviously, she attracted pity instead of condemnation. Emily found love in Homer baron and this time she will not let him go like the others, instead she had plans to keep for eternity by poisoning him. Getty writes, that Jack Scherting’s Freudian reading of “A Rose for Emily” uses the sub-rosa concept only to suggest that Emily’s attachment to her father had lasting repercussions: “the Oedipal desire expressed in Emily’s affair with Homer was never recognized by the people of Jefferson. The people of Jefferson allowed Emily cling to Homer Baron’s body knowing fully well that he was in her house. Getty writes, that the Rose of the title extends far beyond any one flower or literary allusion in its implications for the story’s structure. The Rose represents secrecy: the confidential relationship between the author and his character, with all of the privileged information withheld.” Poor Emily she died with her flawed belief system.
Eveline’s father, is her antagonist, Joyce was able to give a hint of what life was before her mother’s demise “Still they seemed to have been rather happy then. Her father was not so bad then; and besides, her mother was still alive”(4) unlike Emily, she was not from an affluent home, so she needed to work and make money to support the family because her father will not rise up to his responsibility of caring for the family, “Besides, the invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights had begun to weary her unspeakably. She always gave her entire wages –seven shillings-and Harry always sent up what he could but the trouble was to get any money from her father”(4). To further buttress this fact and show how abusive he was, Joyce writes, “He said she used to squander the money, that she had no head, that he was not going to give her his hard-earned money to throw to the streets and much more”(5). She was under pressure to take care of the family at a young age, “It was hard work - a hard life”(5). Like Emily she too was imprisoned by the biddings of her father, she wanted to please him and was scared of incurring his anger, “Even now, though she was over nineteen, she sometimes felt herself in danger of her father’s violence. She knew it was that that had given her the palpitations.” Joyce went further to establish her fears, “when they were growing up he had never gone for her, like he used to go for Harry and Ernest, because she was a girl ; but latterly he had begun to threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead mother’s sake. And now she has nobody to protect her”. Yet, with all her fears, when she had the opportunity of escaping, she chooses to stay back.
She tries to remember the few times he’s been nice to her and free her mind of situations that she thinks of him being irrational. Scott Trudell in his critical essay writes, confrontational with her mother’s ghost but unable to disregard the promise to fulfill her duty, ‘Keep the home together’ and inhibit Mrs. Hill’s own doomed role (including her nervous breakdown), Eveline is condemning herself to a life of Oedipal inhibition. She wants to be loved, she dreams of being treated better than her mother as Joyce writes, “but in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not be like that. Then she would be married-she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her mother had been”. Frank, whom she considers very kind is around to save her and help fulfill her dreams of better life elsewhere, knowing fully well that Dublin is not the place of her happiness. Just like Emily’s father, her father quarrels with Frank and forbids her to have a relationship with him. She decides keep her love affair a secret, probably waiting for the day of liberation.
Warren Beck writes, earlier in the evening, though she was aware that “her time was running out” Eveline had “continued to sit by the window”; now time has ran out she is at the point of embarkation physically and psychologically. It is now that “a bell clanged upon her heart” as she feels herself about to be engulfed in “all the seas of the world.” Now Frank, who she had thought, “would save her,” appears as one about to “drown her.” Beck further to clarify her thoughts that she did not mean to doubt his love, or sees him in evil light, Eveline reaches her epiphany moment. “Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.” She chose to remain in Dublin, Eveline lacks true identity to be like her mother if chooses to stay or leave with Frank and have a new life. She decides to stay and keep the vows she made to her mother to “keep the home together”(6). She is truly an antihero.
Women endure a lot right from tender age, the responsibilities they are often asked to bear overwhelms them and leaves most of them emotionally and psychologically abused. Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose for Emily” and Joyce’s “Eveline” shows how women have become tragic heroes and antihero due to the roles they play in their homes and society. Their lives are destroyed by the men who are suppose to protect them, leaving them to fate.

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