Emilys only social imperfection in her eyes was remaining unmarried, and to remedy that when she could not possess Homer Barron, she murdered him. The loss of her father is replaced by an obsession with another man. Emily literally cannot live without a man, even if she must become a kind of “threatening” and murderous harpy to have a husband (Clarke 6).
Faulkners Emily lives for love. She follows the expectations of society in a perverse fashion: she kills a man so she will not lack a male presence in her life. In the story, there is no self-expression and freedom to live outside of social constraints and the expectations of how a woman must act. Love is not liberating. Emily is a symbol of a vengeful woman, and an outdated form of false Southern gentility. She seems to have no existence beyond the need for male approval. Although both men and women in Faulkners stories are obsessed with the dead, in “A Rose for Emily,” dead men define the womans character — without men, Emily would have no sense of self (Fowler & Abadie 275). Emily symbolizes a stultifying, aging society and as a woman, she has no character or motivation outside of her role as a daughter or a jilted woman.
D.H. Lawrences “A Horse Dealers Daughter” also shows women as defined by sexual, male-focused relationships. The title character Mabel becomes lost, sexually and socially, because of the economic problems of her family. When Mabel realizes she lacks love, she feels rootless, and devotes her time, like Emily, to caring for the dead — in this case, her mothers grave. Unlike her brothers, Mabel has no way to better herself, and at the end of the tale she is married out of pity, rather than genuine affection.
Jack, the doctor saves Mabel by sexually undressing her for medical reasons, to make sure she is alive after she has nearly drowned. Then, he saves her through marriage. Mabel symbolizes proud, reserved, cold sexual desire when she is wealthy, and without her wealth she literally falls and must be rescued by a man, indicating that without vulnerability a woman is not a woman at all (Schapiro 76-77). Only when she has nothing and falls into the arms of Jack can Mabel admit to the fact that she has desire and feel shame, calling herself “awful,” and causing Jack to propose out of guilt (Schapiro 77). Mabel symbolizes the sexual repressiveness of aristocracy and wealth when it is undone, and there is little sympathy for her plight — the reader feels for Jack instead, a man who is now mired in a loveless engagement. This is a kind of “aggressive fantasy” where a woman of high class is brought low. “Few would disagree” writes the scholar Ronald Granofsky, that the storys title is misleading, although the title suggests that Mabel will be the primary character of interest (Granofsky 163). The story is a tale of the doctors entrapment in social conventions, a man who is conned into a bad deal that is even harder to extricate himself from than a bad horse trade.
Clarke, Deborah. Robbing the Mother: Women in Faulkner. University Press of Mississippi,
Fowler, Doreen & Ann J. Abadie. Faulkner and Women. University Press of Mississippi,
Granofsky, Ronald. DH Lawrence and survival: Darwinism in the fiction of the transitional
Period. McGill-Queens Press, 2003.
Maschke, Karen. Pornography, sex work, and hate speech. Taylor & Francis, 1997.
Roderick, Phillip. Fall of the House of Poe. New York: Universe, 2006.
Schapiro, Barbara. DH Lawrence.