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Famine & A Rose for Emily
Transcript of Famine & A Rose for Emily
What really happened...
by Xu Xi
Who are we talking about?
* Chinese woman
* fifty-one years old at time of narration
* lived with her parents until their deaths
* tied down by responsibility
* independent yet obedient
* Father; A-Ba
* lives to ninety-five
* injured at forty-four by a falling crane that crushes his left leg and groin
* opposes her education
* refuses to let her eat any but the simplest and poorest meals
* Since both of her parents have recently died, she is now independent and mostly alone in the world. She takes a plane to New York and arrives at the Plaza Suite Hotel. She travels mostly in the same area as the hotel, eating from many different places. Along the way, she tells us about her childhood.
* She decides to hold a party at the hotel. She eats and eats and eats, and then, at the climax, her parents show up. Her father is healed and good-natured. The entire tone of the story changes from distracted haste to relaxed bliss. In conclusion, she smiles benevolently, and they all eat the luxurious food.
* Growing up, she went on a hunger strike twice in order to continue her education. Her father physically beat her, but she held out. She eventually gets a job as an English teacher, but must continue to live with her parents because A-Ba disapproves of her only suitor.
* The stories share a structure that jumps around; emphasizing how important the past is to the two women; so important that they cannot concentrate on the present. They seem unable to let it go. This is a major characteristic they share.
As she enters into a heaven-like state and the departed return whole and healed, the women in ‘Famine’ allows her past to die (she moves on). This is a direct contrast to Emily, who kept the past beside her, literally rotting.
The women in Famine really has died and gone to heaven, or a version of it. She has eaten so much, so soon, taking such a release from her previous captivity, that she literally dies from the excess. The presence of her parents whole and healed shows that she never found peace in life, only in death. This is her version of Heaven.
The past has died, along with the woman.
What did we learn about life?
* In both stories, the father prevents his daughter from doing the thing she most wants to do. Both prevent their daughters from getting married, and A-Ba also keeps his daughter in a state of starvation. After his death, the woman goes out and eats every good thing she can, while Emily courts and marries a man her father would definitely have disapproved of.
"Perhaps...I am too stubborn, perhaps even too slothful because instead of seeing reality, I've hidden in my parents' home..."
* Both have been deprived of their desires for so long that once freed, they excess in their freedom and cannot handle it, just as a starving person cannot consume as much food as a normally well-fed person can, yet they are more tempted to.
She complains that her students do not understand famine as she does, since her parents force her to eat only a little.
Hanging on to the past kills. It drove both of the women insane.
Their obsessions cause Emily to kill her love and the woman in “Famine” to literally eat herself to death.
Yet because the woman in Famine accepted her past, whether in death or in life, she is finally happy, unlike Emily, who continued brooding and never found peace.
by Xu Xi and Faulkner