“A Rose For Emily” and ” We Real Cool”

Conflict Between an Individual and His/Her Society

A Rose for Emily is a vast short story authored by William Faulkner. It depicts the ongoing life in South America at the start of the 20th century. A Rose for Emily not just presents the story about the protagonist, but gives a detailed illustration of the typical social structure during the period described. Faulkner outlines a sketch of people, society and epoch. The story is very captivating owing to the fact that the author succeeds in showing the transitional period at the time when one order changes to another. The society that the author describes, in this case, is totally different from contemporary society. Deprived of basic rights and freedoms, the women who lived during those times were emotionally and physically subdued to the authority of men.

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Emily, the protagonist, becomes a victim of discrimination, social pressure, and prejudices. Resistance to change is one of the dominant subject matters illustrated in the story. Despite the fallen fortune of the family, Emily’s father resisted giving room to suitors to propose to Emily. As a result, her chances of getting married get eroded. Emily then settles for Homer, but the people in town see this as an affront as far as her noble heritage is concerned. These facts serve as evidence for the existence of conflict between an individual and society.

On the other hand, We Real Cool, a poem written by Gwendolyn Brooks identifies the struggle faced by Black American youths on the verge of defining themselves during their late fifties and early sixties living in a society which had predominantly oppressed them. The poem gives a picture of a group of Black boys conducting illegal activities while hanging out in a pool instead of being in school with fellow peers. The boys face great insecurity in defining their roles in society as they talk about big things in order for them to hide behind their facade of living the lives of thugs. They feel that there is no sense of belonging to the society they live in, if only in case of being criminals. Instead of battling against the stereotype associated with lazy Black men, they give surrender and live into the wired expectations of the White, upper-class society. The conflict between an individual and a society is a common theme in the short story, A Rose, for Emily by William Faulkner, and in the poem We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks, and it is quintessential to give them critical treatment in a candid discussion.


The role played by society is significant in both works. In the short story, the author writes in a third-person narration, hence there is hardly a definite narrator. The use of multiple people telling the story in conjunction with personal narration features as a special device. For instance, “The men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant – a combined gardener and cook – had seen in at least ten years” (Morton 12). With this, he is able to convey the point of view of town residents to the readers. The readers can manage not only to comprehend an individual opinion but rather a combination of ideas concerning the general thinking of people described in the town. It presents the readers with the opportunity to be able to see the perception of people about Emily. In fact, through the attitude toward Emily, a general reflection of the attitude towards all women in that society is shown. Even though people hardly have a direct association with Emily, they become of great influence in her life and shape her actions in many ways. The noble expectations and position taken by the society hardly give Emily enough room to be able to get married since her father cannot come to find a suitable and worthy partner for his aristocratic daughter. Social opinion completely destroys any hope for happiness that Emily had, making her life senseless and empty. Later, the pressure imposed by the society refuses Emily from confessing that she had been left by Homer and ends up committing murder in order to salvage her reputation and also save her appearance in the public.


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Emily’s freedom in making choices is greatly undermined. Every direction of her life is determined by necessities corresponding to social expectations and standards. She does not have a sense of belonging to the society which completely dominates her life. Even her communication with people was impaired as she could no longer communicate with just anybody except for people close to her but had to be mindful of social pressure and opinion. Close relationships that existed between Emily and her father become another kind of pressure and the manifestation of a domination that she goes through in her life. As stated by Faulkner, “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette with foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip…” (Faulkner 5). This best illustrates the type of relationships that existed between Emily and the father. It means that her independence of mind was curtailed and the social opinion she later develops completely shapes her life. Even though there was negative destructive influence emanating within the society to Emily’s life, it is possible to take note of sincere attitude and compassion from people around her. Therefore, society is depicted as the one initiating the conflict with its members through stereotypes, fringe belief systems, dogma and methods of leadership.

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A bit similar situation is portrayed in the poem We Real Cool. In this case, society paints a bad picture of the boys, hence, it fails to offer them both moral and financial support. As a result, the boys engage in doing all that they can inquest for acceptance. The poem begins with a scene of seven boys hanging around a pool known as Golden Shovel. The number seven is typically linked with luck. The seven players come out to symbolize small gang and they require luck in order to survive different financial endeavors. Because society rejected them, they struggle to fit within the society by becoming a dark force that the society had to reckon with. The name used in reference to the poll, Golden Shovel, represents the short life span of the Black youth. The golden part built by the title means that the pool players are still young, hence, they ought to be in school instead of hanging around the pool hall. The shovel commonly paints an image of graves. In relation to this, the significance of the name pool hall dictates that pool players hanging out there are in the process of digging their own graves by engaging in illegal business. The pool players are generally having an air mystery around them making them appear cool. They end up defying authority which impresses their fellow peers and it features as a common occurrence among them to revere rebellion.

Conflict with the society, which ends up in their rejection, makes them live a life they ought not to live. In one way or another, society indirectly influenced their thinking. For instance, in stanza 2, the narrator appears to be among the pool players and he says that they are comfortable with the prevailing fact that they left school. Just like Emily in a short story who gave in to what the society expected of her, so do the boys in this poem who also accepted to operate within the social structures set by the society.

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They sabotage their lives by failing to go to school and being whatever they wanted in life; instead of living a cool life, they decided to further the stereotypes created by lazy Black man which are hardly an asset to society. Over time, their personalities conflict with society. In fact, the boys are not cool at all in any way. The monosyllabic diction of the poem keeps up the idea that the boys are school dropouts and uneducated. Just like the Emily in the short story, A Rose for Emily gave up hope of fighting to the extent that she killed to maintain her reputation, in the same way, the poem reflects the fact that the boys totally gave up of ever having a formal education, after noting no future for themselves within the structures built in that society at any professional capacity. They ended up choosing a life of crime for survival after feeling that there was no need being in school if they could not be allowed to comfortably live inequality with their classmates.

Forming identities and needs for acceptance set the pace for conflicts between respective individuals and society. In both cases, the duo parties were experiencing changes in their lives and were forming different identities, except for the society they were living in. With both cases insisting on their course, a serious conflict is due to happen as a result of opposing ideas and desires. For instance, in the poem, the word “we” has been alliterated eight times in eight lines. This signifies the fact that the boys have a group identity and they want only to be defined by their newly formed identities characterized by their rebellious ways which put them at loggerheads with the society. The same happens in the short story when Miss Emily decided to date Homer Barron. They opposed the idea since they only wanted to hold back in adhering to the ideals adopted by southern ladies that had been mapped out in her by her forbearers. Even though she managed to break free when her father passed, the town insisted on not letting her go and when they were unable to put a halt in her relationship with Homer, they sick the cousins on her.

Pride is another aspect of life illustrated in both cases that set a platform for the occurrence of conflicts between individuals and society. Pride dictated that the subjects strongly maintained their position and way of thinking in resistance to change. In the poem, the young boys endlessly took pride in their aimless behavior and critics. In fact, they thrived in a culture in which even those considered talented come to a realization that social and economic opportunities are a bit scary. To them, it is better to die early instead of pleasing the society, as death is an honor to them, especially at the early stages. A similar situation is portrayed in the short story when Emily is dumped by Homer but hardly told anyone in order to maintain her reputation or personal egos.


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