Text: James Stronks, “A Poe Source for Faulkner? ‘To Helen’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’,” Poe Newsletter , April 1968, vol. I, No. 1, 1:11


[page 11, column 1:]

A Poe Source for Faulkner?
“To Helen” and “A Rose for Emily”

The University of Illinois at Chicago Circle

In “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner three times describes his heroine in terms that recall Poe’s central image in “To Helen”: “Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche/ How statue-like I see thee stand.” On the first occasion, Faulkner places Emily Grierson stone-still in a lighted window after midnight, “her upright torso motionless as that of an idol” [The Portable Faulkner, ed. Malcolm Cowley (1954), p. 493]. Later he describes her [p. 494] as having “a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows,” not unlike Poe’s “statue” in a “brilliant window-niche.” And once again [p. 499], he poses her at her window, “like the carven torso of an idol in a niche.”

Is this repeated similarity a coincidence, or were Poe’s lines in Faulkner’s mind? Consider that symbolically the two heroines are somewhat similar. Helen’s beauty and statue-like serenity in her window remind Poe of the glory and grandeur of Greece and Rome; Faulkner’s Emily, “sort of tragic and serene” [p. 494] and repeatedly posed before a window, is an immobile idol respected as representative of the glory and grandeur of the Old South. In her dark house — “in that region above stairs” [p. 500] as Faulkner words it (compare Poe’s words “from the regions which/Are Holy Land”) — lies the corpse of Emily’s lover, Homer. Let us not call his name a classic touch. Faulkner’s insisted-upon image of Emily as an idol in a window seems likely to have been suggested by Poe’s celebrated image of Helen in her window.


Associated Article(s) and Related Material:


[S:1 - PSDR, 1968]