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“A Rose for Emily” and “Soldier’s Home”: Types of Conflict, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1245

Essay

In “A Rose for Emily” and “Soldier’s Home,” readers find conflict in all three traditional forms. However, at heart, both are stories about a personal dysfunction that leads to an overall person against society conflict. For Emily, the conflict lies in her town’s perceptions of her. For Krebs, society does not afford him the treatment that he needs, nor an ear to which he can speak his mind. His disconnection from society, and Emily’s seemingly open scorn for society are the biggest sources of conflict in these two stories.

In “A Rose for Emily,” we see the first hints of person against society conflict in the visit from the town officials and the sheriff to Emily’s house to demand taxes. Though it is true that, at one time, Emily was granted tax exemption, her town now seeks to collect. This is Emily’s first stand against society, and her first victory in the story. She turns the sheriff and other town officials away when they question the supremacy of her father’s agreement with the former mayor. She refuses to pay her taxes and, in a sense, takes on society directly. The unique aspect of this conflict is the fact that Emily wins in her struggle against society, and taxes are never collected.

The bulk of the story has to do with Emily’s conflict with her town’s perceptions of her life. The narrator seems to be a member of the town who always refers to “we” when discussing aspects of Emily’s life that is observed. Emily struggles with society because she is somewhat strange and unable to live up to the standards set by her society. It is implied that she is unable to live up to these standards because her father was overbearing and chased off her suitors. It is expressed best in the following passage describing her reaction to her father’s death, in which she refused to accept his passing and attempted to keep the townspeople from burying him.

We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that, with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robber her, as people will.”

Though this could be interpreted as a conflict between Emily and her father, it seems clear that society’s standards were not met, in part, because of Emily’s relationship with her father. Her father’s death left Emily to deal with society’s judgmental eyes and little else. She is reclusive and odd because of how society judges her. Altertnatively, it could be said that society judges her because of her reclusive nature. Either way, she lives constantly at odds with society, existing on its fringes and never quite escaping its judgments or customs.

In similar ways, “Soldier’s Home” is a story about conflict between a person and society, and a person and himself. The reader gets a view inside of Harold’s head, and his boredom and frustration after returning home from the overwhelming experience of the First World War.

Harold Krebs is struggling with his own mind and the changes that he has gone through because of the war. His perspective has shifted and he sees the world in a way that is different from before he went to the war. The reader is given insight in to Harold’s view of societal norms like dating in paragraphs like the following, which describe how Harold feels about the prospect of courting and dating.

When he was in town their appeal to him was not very strong. He did not like them when he saw them in the Greek’s ice cream parlor. He did not want them themselves really. They were too complicated. There was something else. Vaguely he wanted a girl but he did not want to have to work to get her. He would have liked to have a girl but he did not want to have to spend a long time getting her. He did not want to get into the intrigue and the politics. He did not want to have to do any courting. He did not want to tell any more lies. It wasn’t worth it.”

Harold’s vague feelings of attraction and need for intimacy are outweighed by his detached nature, and the way in which he has been conditioned by his time at war. Presumably, before the war, Harold was a normal person with normal goals and needs but, his internal struggle upon returning is a depressive, disconnected state, and the way in which everyday life fails to stimulate him.

While the primary conflict in “Soldier’s Home” is internal or against society, Krebs’ story also has an element of person against person conflict. Krebs’ time in the military shaped his vision of relationships. He saw the women there as uncomplicated. He could be friendly with them but he would not need to hear them talk, presumably because of a language barrier. Krebs has framed his visions of relationships with American women as complicated and political. When he speaks about them or to them, presumably, he does not approach them as equals and, instead, sees them as adversarial. Though this could be interpreted as an internal struggle, it is clear that Krebs lack of social ability has lead him, at least in part, to the state in which he exists during the story.

His struggle with society presents itself most heavily in the form of his mother, who expresses her concern about his wellbeing. She compares him to the other soldiers who have returned home and describes their success. This does not move Harold and leads him to a rare moment of honest with society. When he explains that he can not love anyone, he is showing that he can not function up to the standards of society. Internally, he is no longer connected to the world. Instead, he will live up to the standards superficially by going to Kansas to get a job, but he will never be happy.

While this can be seen as a mostly internal struggle with himself, it is clear that Harold must compete with society’s vision of how a person should behave. He will continue to pray, tell people that he loves them, and work, but he will not be happy doing these things. It seems that only war can keep him happy, that it is all that he knows and that, without a war or the army, he will never really be at home. It is a sad way to spend the rest of his life, but he will necessarily hide his true feelings because he is expected to live up to a standard that he can not reach by acting out on how he feels. Instead, he must cope and put up a normal image.

The main difference between the stories of Harold Krebs and Miss Emily lies in the level of internal thought that the reader is allowed to see. For Miss Emily, her struggle with society is shown from the perspective of society, as the unnamed townsperson who narrates. For Krebs, the reader sees just how he views society, and readers are given a detailed vision of Krebs’ thought processes. He is disconnected, sad, and lethargic. Emily, on the other hand, is shown to see her own dysfunction as normal, and to assert herself as she sees appropriate. These are two separate, yet somewhat similar stories of a person going against society because of his or her own internal conflict.

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