Thursday, September 16, 2010


Randy Roller      09/15/2010

As I stare at this blank page while reflecting upon my days as a young boy, I always find myself remembering what I refer to as the “good old days”! We never locked the doors and we always crossed our hearts with reverence when the National Anthem was played. Baseball or going to the creek or just hanging out day dreaming about what the future would hold seemed to be the grandest of times.

See, we believed in America! Is this a concept that has lost favor in today’s culture? I notice only the older people show reverence to the National Anthem and the beautiful flag, anymore. As “old glory” is my focus and I am at full salute, I notice the young generation talking and laughing and sadly many of my generation are doing the same! It is not the fault of our children but falls squarely on our own shoulders as we fell asleep along time ago and forgot the importance of teaching our children what it really means to be an American. We were born Americans by God’s grace; however, it seems not to be a good thing  these days with all the “let’s bash America crowd” going around from within. Hollywood and the media remind us of this on a daily basis!

No matter what is said here or abroad, I still see the days of baseball, unlocked doors and that beautiful flag and a place where even an average person could one day be great with hard work and a “can do” attitude. American people have always been strong, resilient, self reliant and American exceptionalism has always been the heart and soul of this nation. America has faced both good times and bad times; however, during times of trouble we have always hitched up our britches and did what needed and helped ourselves and our neighbors. The individual was and has been the key to our success. I really understand the wisdom of our founding fathers when they choose to start that amazing document with “WE THE PEOPLE”! Have you ever noticed the size of those three words on the original document? I think they really wanted us to understand the importance of those words more than any other and really makes us a very unique place.

The French writer Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about it in 1831. He said “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”  We take for granted what Tocqueville saw in the American people every day. One of Alexis de Toqueville's original arguments for American exceptionalism still stands; America remains particularly attractive to immigrants because of its perceived economic and political opportunities.

What is the true American spirit that makes our country that exceptional place? America started as a rough but beautiful land and the unique document we call the “Constitution” is more than exceptional and some would even claim it came from “divine providence”. As all my friends know, American History is a very important part of my life! I really enjoy reading about pre 1900 American history and the resilient people who with little more than faith carved out a new world. I know we have made many mistakes; however, I can’t think of any other place since the dawn of mankind that tries to do the best with what we have.
America is too big a place for small dreams and that is true today as it was in the days of my youth when baseball and fishing ruled the day. From Valley Forge to Normandy and even Afghanistan, our best have died so we have the right to liberty, freedom and no dream is too large.

In closing, Ronald Reagan once said “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.” At times I am pessimistic about the future.  I am afraid that too many of us are currently in apathy and are rapidly heading towards dependency.  Yet, this country was founded by a small minority of determined men and women. They pledged everything on this republic. A small group of resolute statesmen opposed tyranny, fought for freedom and liberty, and changed the course of world history. I believe in the American people and know that patriots like Washington, Jefferson, Lee and Jackson are still in our presence. So today, I remain an optimist! Now, I will let myself go back to thoughts of baseball and fishing and thank God, I am a proud American.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dead Men in The Attic: A Feminist View of Faulkner’s Short Story “A Rose for Emily”

Dead Men in The Attic: A Feminist View of Faulkner’s Short Story “A Rose for Emily”
By Elizabeth Roller

William Faulkner is a name that is inseparable from the Southern literary tradition. His novels As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, and The Sound and the Fury are considered paramount in the category of southern gothic fiction. The themes and characters he weaves are second to none. However, he is not without his detractors. Faulkner is a product of a misogynistic time and his female characters show this, though critics disagree to what extent. Kevin Railey states in his essay on paternalism in Faulkner that “rarely, if ever, does one find women in Faulkner who are not essentially projections of male fear and/or desire” (98), while Diane Brown Jones essay in A William Faulkner Encyclopedia says “Faulkner’s creation of women characters is central to his art; indeed, of all the characters in his Yoknapatawpha landscape, his women characters are the ones who most endure” (439). Few writers besides Faulkner have had such polarizing views of women themselves, as “Faulkner, himself, made statements that pointed to his misogyny, yet at other times, he stated that he thought women were wonderful and more interesting to write about than men” (Jones 439). Clearly, there is something to be examined here.
Faulkner’s first published short story, “A Rose for Emily”, is a perfect encapsulation of his tumultuous relationship with writing female characters. Faulkner describes it as the story of a “young girl with a young girl’s normal aspirations to find love and then a husband and a family, who was brow-beaten and kept down by her father” (In The University 185). He displays the typical misogyny of the time with this statement, implying that all girls’ ultimate life goal is to marry. Yet self-proclaimed radical feminist Minrose C. Gwin views it differently. She claims that Faulkner might have written Emily as the everywoman of the time:

And although I didn’t know it when I first met Emily Grierson, I know now that most women live out their lives with several male corpses in their attics. We are all, in some sense, I believe, “madwomen in the attic,” in that the closed back rooms of our houses and our psyches are often those very places where it is possible to exert power over men in ways that are unthinkable in the real world. I think that Faulkner knew this when he wrote “A Rose for Emily.” I think he liked her too. (qtd. in Carvill 220)

The main focus of “A Rose for Emily”, if not the main character, is a woman named Emily, who in her old age has become somewhat of a town oddity. The townspeople both respect her and pity her, in contrast. This mix of emotions is what carries over into Emily’s characterization. Emily is a symbolic figure for both the feelings towards women of Faulkner and his time period. In the time at which Faulkner wrote, the new woman was having her advent. Short hair was in vogue, and dresses that showed the knees were not too uncommon. Girls were even invading the boys’ clubs that were universities. Unlike Faulkner’s character Temple Drake, the flapper protagonist of Sanctuary, Miss Emily is a genteel southern lady, the last gasping breath of a dying tradition. The events of “Rose” show the decay that “traditional womanhood” had on a woman and what the implications of being a southern belle truly meant. Faulkner’s sympathetic portrayal of Emily shows that he realized the flaws in this system, but he was also concerned with women breaking away from these roles.

Emily lives in a fictional town called Jefferson, a sleepy southern town once run by another one of Faulkner’s most famous creations, General Satoris. Her father was a Grierson and an influential member of the town. Her mother is not present, and her father rules her life. It is strange that not one mention of her mother and her character is included. Cleanth Brooks suggests that “Faulkner wanted to isolate Miss Emily Grierson almost completely and to throw her back on her own resources. The early loss of a girl’s mother is an obvious way of heightening her loneliness and stressing her father’s power over her” (69-70). Faulkner describes her in her youth as “a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip” (“A Rose” 118). White has been associated with youthfulness, virginity and purity, all qualities valued in southern women. Emily is in the background, due to being overshadowed by her father in both social standing and personality. The horsewhip he holds can be viewed as a weapon to keep the suitors away; however, it can also be viewed as a tool to train and discipline Emily into a perfect southern belle. He keeps all potential lovers away from his daughter. The townspeople are not too surprised, because “the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 118). Still, like all proper ladies, though, she has a man to protect her. Emily has depended on her father for her whole life, and when he dies, she refuses to believe it. When the ladies of the town come to visit her, she is “dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 118). She has been raised to only know her father running her life. In her essay “A Rose for ‘A Rose for Emily’”, Judith Fetterley says that “not only is ‘A Rose for Emily’ a supreme analysis of what men do to women by making them ladies; it is also an exposure of how this act in turn defines and recoils upon men” (56). Emily has been turned into the perfect, unattainable southern woman by her father. This oppression turns around on another male. “When the would-be ‘suitors’ finally get into her father's house, they discover the consequences of his oppression of her, for the violence contained in the rotted corpse of Homer Barron is the mirror image of the violence” (56), says Fetterley.

After her father dies, Emily is alone, although now she is allowed to have a suitor. She chooses “a Northerner, a day laborer” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 118), who has been hired. His name is Homer Barren, which, in foreshadowing, “signifies…‘barren home’” (Polk 124). The citizens of Jefferson at first think she would have no interest in him because he is from the North and much less in status than she, but they are pleased she has taken an interest in a man. Soon, the two grow close and the citizens say that “she will marry him…she will persuade him yet” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 119). Things are not perfect in paradise, however. Homer, despite “laughing in the square” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 118), is still a man like her father. They rode through town on Sundays, “Miss Emily with her head held high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 119). Yet again, the image of a horsewhip, of control, is present. The text even states that this strange affection for a man similar to her father is normal, saying “she would have to cling to that which robbed her” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 118). Even worse than her father, though, Homer will not take care of her “properly” and marry her. The reason was that “Homer himself had remarked --- he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elk’s Club --- that he was not a marrying man” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 119). This could be interpreted in a variety of ways, from taking it at face value that Homer is just not the kind to settle down or that he literally “likes men” and is a homosexual. At any rate, he will not conform to the standards of the times. This was disturbing to Miss Emily. When asked, Faulkner himself says that “she has been trained that you do not take a lover” (Faulkner, In the University 58). His not marrying her shattered everything her father had taught her. She cannot comprehend why he wouldn’t marry her. It is implied that she is delusional about their status, as she begins to buy “a man’s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B. on each piece…a complete outfit of men’s clothing, including a nightshirt” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 120). When she learns she cannot have him the traditional way, she decides to deviate for once in her life and have him by killing him.

The townspeople view Emily as a “fallen monument” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 115) to both her family and the old south. Yet, conversely, they view her and her house as “an eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 116). She is something that they, as the younger generation, have an obligation to take care of, like a statue. They don’t understand her completely, yet tradition binds them to her. They revel in a sort of voyeuristic relationship with her, and her business is the towns business. She is judged when she is single, and she is judged when she sees someone. All the time, they say “poor Emily” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 119), without ever fully understanding the situation. When her father dies, they could “at least now pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 118). She falls, and they secretly enjoy it. Diane Roberts offers that “her house, once the grandest in town, develops a terrible smell” as a kind of “advertisement that she has fallen” (Roberts 159). The town is divided on the problem of Miss Emily. The elders want to allow her the luxury of going on as she always has, not paying taxes and simply fluttering around alone in her house. One town official is aghast when a younger chancellor suggests they tell Miss Emily that people have complained about the smell, asking him if he “will accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 117). The up-and-coming generation does not see it this way. They send her tax notices and attempt to get her to put up street numbers on her house, to her dismay and indignation. But “Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care” (Faulkner, “A Rose” 116) that they cannot ignore. The problem of Miss Emily is the problem of all women of Faulkner’s time. Especially in the South of Faulkner’s writings, women are in a constant state of flux. They are expected to be Southern belles, but also own up to the rising movement of feminism and the ways of the “new woman”. It’s an impossible situation to win, when someone is pulled in two different directions. Miss Emily’s actions are only the results of desperation.

One interesting facet of Faulkner’s writing is the paradox between the sympathy he shows females and the thin veil of animosity towards them running through his work. In Robbing the Mother, Deborah Clark suggests that an underlying theme in Faulkner’s misogyny is that women succeed in “reminding men of their origins and their dependence on women's bodies for their very existences” (5). Men cannot deny the existence of a female sexuality, because without it, they would not be here. Also, as owners of wombs, women are the only true source of “creativity”, and this comes with a price: feminine filth, or menstruation. This means that “the bloody functioning of female sexual organs reveals the reality behind the ideal, that the physical, not the linguistic, provides the engendering power, a power which grows out of female sexuality” (Clark 5). This power is present in Faulkner’s female characters, because “not even age and menopause necessarily render women less threatening; the only safe woman is a dead woman” (Clark 5). As a white, middle class man, Faulkner was a member of the Southern patriarchy, but he was a writer who admired creativity. It is possible that he could have been resentful of women because he saw them as both equals and inferior, and that he could not escape the fact that he owed his life to a woman. The citizens of Jefferson, too, try to deny Miss Emily’s sexuality. Yet, they cannot, because she “harbors a covert sexuality that destabilizes not only the integrity of the spinster but the whole edifice of southern history and class” (Roberts 158). She plays into the image of a southern lady, while in actuality she is a cruel parody of one. The house that had been her father’s “signifies how she has pretended to conform to the Old South code of chastity, all the while reveling in her deviancy” (Roberts 159). It was the one way she has ever gone against the myth of womanhood her entire life.

Miss Emily is a perpetrator of a horrible crime. She kills an innocent man for simply rejecting her and keeps his body for years and years for her own twisted pleasure. In the end, she seems totally unrepentant for it. But, while not an excuse, she does have a reason for it; it was all she knew to do. Her father, whom she believes loved her, keeps her in his house with her most of her life, and she is just returning the favor when she keeps Homer with her. She is told she must have a man, but she must be chaste and asexual. What’s a girl to do? Like the women of Faulkner’s time, she is caught in two opposite tidal waves, one calling for a new kind of woman and the other screaming about values, morals, and old codes. So, she does what she is told and “gets herself a man”, and when the traditional way doesn’t work, she uses her own method. In that, she finds the ability to have power over men for the first time ever. Miss Emily does literally to a man what men have been doing to women metaphorically for years before her time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Of a Demon in My View: “The Raven” as a Metaphor for Poe’s Dark Thoughts

Of a Demon in My View: “The Raven” as a Metaphor for Poe’s Dark Thoughts
By Elizabeth Roller

Few authors have better personified the cliché of the tortured artist as well as Edgar Allen Poe. A pale, dark-haired alcoholic, Poe was gothic before The Cure or Siouxie and the Banshees showed up in the 1980s. One of the best examples of his darkness, both inner and outer, is perhaps his most influential and famous poems, “The Raven.” The setting and tone of the poem are obviously dark from the beginning, but the meanings go deeper when one considers Poe’s disturbed and troubled life. Both the titular raven and the poem’s narrator can be viewed as symbols for Poe’s own demons.

The poem’s unnamed narrator is sitting in his chambers when the poem begins. It is late at night, and like most nights in Poe’s works, it’s dismal. He is looking at “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore” (Poe 2). This indicates that the narrator is interested in works of old fiction. Poe also shows an interest in old stories in the text of the poem, where he often refers to there being “a bust of Pallas” (41) and references the Odessy’s drug nepenthe (82) and the Biblical region of Gilead (89). The narrator also seems to have deep worries and his thoughts tend to fall into the dark abyss, not too unlike Poe’s own. In line 26 of the poem, the narrator has thoughts of “doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” He is tortured by his own pessimism. Poe would be very familiar with this feeling.

Poe also shares the narrator’s feelings of loss, especially the loss of a beautiful woman. Beautiful, young, dead women are a prevalent force in Poe’s work, specifically in poems like “Anabel Lee” and “The Raven”. In “The Raven”, the narrator has recently lost his love, Lenore. He clearly thinks the world of her, referring to her as a “rare and radiant maiden”. Poe’s use of the word maiden here might suggest that, like many of his fictional dead women, Lenore was young and pure. The narrator is still morning his loss of her, because he reads to obtain a “surcease of sorrow---sorrow for the lost Lenore” (10). When the raven comes and perches in his room, the narrator is sullen, thinking that the bird will leave him as Lenore did, saying “Other friends have flown before---On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before” (59). Also, on his couch, he knows “she shall press, ah, nevermore!” (78). Likewise, he knows he will never see her again.
The raven arrives on this dark and dreary night after rapping three times. At first, the narrator is happy to see it, thinking it whimsical. Perhaps Poe felt the same way when he first began to be inspired to write. The first bit of foreshadowing that the bird might not be so pleasant is when the narrator asks him what his “name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore” (47). This suggests that the raven might be sent from the underworld or Hell. When asked this question, the bird replies “Nevermore” (48). His name is Nevermore, and the narrator is knows that he will nevermore see his love Lenore, and Poe knows that he will nevermore see his mother or any of the other dead women in his life. Poe later describes the bird to be “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous” (71). None of these are positive descriptions. The longer the bird stays and says Nevermore, the more the narrator remembers his own loneliness. He implores the raven to leave, calling it a “thing of evil” (91). The raven does not, and eventually the narrator goes mad with grief, and he sees that the bird “still is sitting, still is sitting” (103) and that it’s “eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming” (105). Poe has shown us a man haunted by a personal demon, someone he can never escape.

Poe might very well have been trying to tell us something. Many great artists, rock stars, authors, and poets have been plagued with demons that seem all consuming. In fact, being tortured might just come with the territory of having artistic vision and being a creative person. Undoubtedly, Poe had hardships in life that most people could not begin cope with. It is only natural to think he had certain dark thoughts he had to combat. Poe had many addictions, yet none of them seem to have benefited him in the end. Even to his death, he could not escape his raven, his demon, himself.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Love for my daughter!

Your eyes glow like the blossoms lovely as the lily in the purest hope of spring,
My soul follows your sweet voice and leaps like a bird at the whisper of your name.
The evening floats in on the everlasting eagles wing,
I am comforted by your love and it brings me sunshine and never rain.

As my tears fall from my eyes, it reminds me of you, child,
In the quiet, I listen for the last song of the day.
My strong smile leaps to my heart so meek and mild,
We laugh as one, smile to smile never will it decay.

With your beautiful brown eyes and father’s kind of love,
I am so very blessed and thankful to God above.

Randy Roller 02/03/2010

In honor of my best friend, Phillip Townsend

Bless you! My friend
My strength , my hero and my best friend!

I know not how to thank you enough, my friend!
When we first met at the age of three
I knew our friendship would never end
We became joined like a lock and a key

I know not how to thank you enough, my friend!
When we were seven we became blood brothers
The world changed for me no need to pretend
The cut was deep and it scared our mothers

I know not how to thank you enough, my friend!
When we became men nothing had changed
I always knew we had many good times to spend
It is almost like this destiny was prearranged

I know not how to thank you enough, my friend!
When you married that wonderful girl, Sue
I was so proud and it continued a trend
With two wonderful boys and this is true

I know not how to thank you enough, my friend!
When I think of you I could write forever
I am so thankful and it is hard to comprehend
How I was so lucky for the bond none can sever

Bless you! My friend!
My strength , my hero and my best friend!