It’s the second week of my Deal Me In: Short Story Project – 2013 and I’ve already drawn a wild card, the two of hearts – I swear I shuffled them! For the wild cards, I’m going to pick a story from somebody else’s list – i.e. Jay over at Bibliophilopolis. Since he has been doing this for several years, now, he has several lists I can choose from. So this week I read William Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose For Emily”.
I’ve posted before about a literary theory I have about surprise endings. A good writer can lead the reader along in a good story and then blow them away with a surprise ending. Those stories can be enjoyable; however, I tend to believe great writers can take readers along in a great story giving them every thing they need to know exactly where the story will end up – and still blow them away at the end. I found this short story by Faulkner to fall into the latter category.
Emily Grierson lives in a small southern town sometime around the turn of the twentieth century. The story jumps back and forth in time to explain her reclusive nature. She and her family tend to be quite the topic of conversation among the townspeople. The story contains several episodes involving the townspeople confronting Emily about oddities surrounding her living arrangements. While I didn’t find myself having much sympathy for Emily right off the bat, as the townspeople became more and more intrusive, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her a little bit. In my mind, the final straw came when the Baptist minister and his wife confronted Emily about riding with her “beau” around the town on Sunday afternoons.
As I mentioned, almost from the beginning, Faulkner gives the reader everything they need to know about how the story will end. I can’t really say that the ending was a surprise to me. Emily’s visit to the drugstore in the middle of the story pretty much clinched it. In spite of knowing where the story was headed, the ending was probably as completely satisfying as any story I’ve read. I’m not against surprise endings – I just don’t think great writers need them.
As an aside, just in case anyone wonders whether I’m still reading books, the answer is “yes, I am”. I only have 40 pages left in War and Peace and I will be free – I mean I will have accomplished my goal.