Robert Frost’s Mountain Interval

posted May 8, 2011, 6:51 AM by I Say You Say   [ updated May 8, 2011, 9:24 AM ]

Robert Frost’s Mountain Interval
Recommended by Jyh-huey (Sophia) Chen


       Mountain Interval, published in 1916, is a collection of poems written by American poet Robert Frost. The poems in the collection, concerned with human tragedies and fears, expound his reaction to the complexities of life and his ultimate acceptance of burdens. Poems like the ever famous “The Road Not Taken”, the eerie “An Old Man's Winter Night”, the imaginative “Birches” and the satirical “Out- Out”, make this volume highly sought after overnight.

      “The Road Not Taken” describes the process of an individual having to make a decision in life, not knowing at that moment if the decision will be the right one, and surely to second guess the decision sometime later. However, regardless of the decision, it is a decision made, which has played a part in what that individual is today. Frost’s assertion, "You have to be careful of that one; it's a tricky poem – very tricky," reveals that the poem should not be considered as an inspirational poem of encouraging self-reliance, not following where others have led. To a discerning eye, the poem seems not to moralize about choice, but simply to say that choice is inevitable. One never knows what his choice will mean until he has lived it.

      The poem “An Old Man's Winter Night” is a sad and haunting poem, clearly depicting an old man's empty life in the countryside. Frost's use of imagery allures readers to imagine how weary and boring an old man's life is. The sound devices are also effective. The line “The roar of trees, crack of branches and beating on the box” fully illustrates some of Frost's creative and vivid images. The sounds of winter, expansion and contraction of materials, inside and outside, create a powerful atmosphere that both repels and attracts you at the same time. This poem highlights
Frost's sensitivity to nature.

      “Birches” is a great example of standard Frost style and content. It discusses life and death, good and evil, and gives the reader a rich and deep feeling, without answering any of the questions it asks.

      “Out, Out-” is a satirical poem about a young boy who dies as a result of cutting his hand using a saw. This gives the reader a clear picture of this bizarre scenario because Frost utilizes imagery, personification, blank verse, and variation in sentence length to display various feelings and perceptions throughout the poem. Frost also makes a reference to Macbeth's speech in the play by Shakespeare called Macbeth which is somewhat parallel to the occurrences in "Out, Out-." Frost begins the poem by describing a young boy cutting some wood using a "buzz-saw." The setting is Vermont and the time is late afternoon. The sun is setting and the boy's sister calls him and the other workers to come for "Supper." As the boy hears its dinnertime, he gets excited and cuts his hand on accident.

      Readers usually associate Robert Frost with nature poets because of his love for subtle metaphors, nature similes, floral imageries and personifications in his poems.  Yet, while reading his poems, one notices that he is not quite a nature poet, at least not in the conventional sense of the word . In fact, his poems are a deep insight into that often deceptive relationship between man and nature. Though nature surrounds man, man in his haste to acquire more material things overlooks the fact often some natural things can incite very deep feelings. Frost's poems highlight this fact that nature and humans can never be seen out of context with each other and that their relationship, though subtle, is of immense importance.


      "Two roads diverged in a wood and I –

       I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."    

                                                      ------By Robert Frost


William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”

posted Oct 22, 2010, 6:41 AM by I Say You Say   [ updated May 7, 2011, 10:17 AM ]

William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”


Recommended by Ms. Jyh-huey Sophia Chen

     The poem recaptures a moment on April 15, 1802, when Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, were walking near a lake at Grasmere, Cumbria County, England, and came upon a shore lined with daffodils. In her diary, Dorothy described what she and her brother saw on that April day:
     When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up— But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road . . .  [S]ome rested their heads on [mossy] stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway... —Rain came on, we were wet. 
     "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is a lyric poem focusing on what the speaker realizes in life through recollection.  From introduction to conclusion, William Wordsworth cleanly describes the act of watching a beautiful multitude of daffodils swaying in the breeze and the lasting effect this pleasant image has on his quiet moments of reverie thereafter.  As he recollects this scene, the speaker gradually realizes the true beauty he had found that day. Often, people ignore some of the simplest things in life and leave them unnoticed and untouched even though, in reality, they are the most amazing. Consequently, it is not until after these unusual things are gone forever that they truly apprehend their significance.  In the poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” William Wordsworth clearly expresses the impact of the simple things on his life.
     Wordsworth, a quintessential poet as a naturalist, had always paid close attention to the details of the physical environment around him (e.g. plants, animals, geography, and weather). He gave nature personal attributes to show the impact and strength that nature brought to a man's life.  He was often evoked by images, real or imagined, of nature.  Through his response to the beauty of nature, it’s not difficult to find that there is a trinity of heaven, earth, and humans in his poems.  Forming a trinity in this way is what it calls perfection because life's simple pleasures come from nature. William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered as Lonely as a Cloud” opens with the narrator describing his action of walking in a state of worldly detachment, his wandering “As lonely as a cloud / That floats on high o'er vales and hills” (1-2).  Wordsworth uses these two introductory lines to describe the dispassionate, detached, and heavenly state for which human beings quest. In the poem the narrator identifies himself with the “lonely cloud” floating in the sky, missing the quiet virtues of nature, beauty, and other sources of emotional nourishment.  As he is walking, he notices “A host, of golden daffodils;… Fluttering and dancing in the breeze” (4 and 6).  He is moved and brings his mind back in; he comes back down to earth.  These light-hearted daffodils weaving in unison with each other in the wind beside the sparkling waves touched the narrator. The narrator seems seeing into enlightenment, but not fully understanding until later: “A poet could not but be gay, / In such a jocund company: / I gazed - and gazed - but little thought / What wealth the show to me had brought” (15-18).  Now he really appreciates the quiet beauties of life that we as human beings need for spiritual sustenance.
     The narrator in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” has taken from the moment the sweet nourishment of spiritual manna from nature.  Perhaps Wordsworth himself was also caughted by these daffodiles in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” and was inspired so much emotionally that he was left with little choice than to express them poetically.  This poem also has a great impact on the twenty-first century readers who has perceived the disconnection to nature in the high-tech civilization.  They are reminded of the significance of keeping a quiet introspection from turning to human society and civilization, and becoming an exuberant reverie of a natural setting in memory.  These daffodiles are a symbol of natural beauty and, more importantly, symbolize living an adoring and fulfilling life.

Zero Limits

posted Jun 11, 2010, 7:34 AM by I Say You Say   [ updated Jun 29, 2010, 9:29 PM ]

Zero Limits

Recommended by Ms. Angela Cheng

Authors: Joe Vitale and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len
Book Review:
This inspiring book is cowritten by Joe Vitale and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. In the book, you will discover a great method to solve people's life problems. This method is called Ho'oponopono, a secret ancient Hawaiian system for health, peace and more.
What do you think when you look at the title "Zero Limits?" You might have no clues at all, but when you read it you might find that this is actually a simple, easy-read book. It begins with the author's quest. Like all of us, we might have questions while we are encountering something new especially something which sounds too good to be true. Yes, this book reveals a power which is within you; it awaits to be discovered not by others, but by you, yourself. The amazing part is you can use a few magic sentences. They are truly simple and powerful. So why not begin your own quest by following the authors and find a better life for yourself? You won't be disappointed. 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

posted May 13, 2010, 3:54 AM by I Say You Say   [ updated May 13, 2010, 6:07 AM ]

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

 Recommended by Ms. Chia-Yin Huang

       Have you ever hid yourself in your mother’s wardrobe when playing hide-and-seek with your brothers and sisters? Would you be afraid that some frightening monster might be waiting behind all those dresses? Did you expect to find a totally different world in the wardrobe? That is exactly how the story begins.
      Four children were sent to live with an old professor during World War II. They lived in an old country house. Lucy, the youngest of the four, was curious about the wardrobe in an empty room. As she stepped into the wardrobe, she discovered the land of Narnia, a world in which animals and imaginary creatures lived under the reign of the ruthless White Witch, who ensured that it was always winter but never Christmas.
      Being the first book of the fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is C.S. Lewis’s best-known novel. It has been sold over 120 million copies in 41 languages. The novel presents the adventure of four children who acted valiantly to help save Narnia from the White Witch’s enchantment. Written in simple but precise language, the story is a combination of Christian allegory, Greco-Roman mythology, and traditional British and Irish fairy tales. Reading the novel would be a savory treat for students who want to journey into the world of English fantasy.
       The Chronicles of Narnia have been adapted several times, complete or in part, for radio, television, stage, and cinema. The seven titles in the series include:


1.    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)

2.    Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951)

3.    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

4.    The Silver Chair (1953)

5.    The Horse and His Boy (1954)

6.    The Magician's Nephew (1955)

7.    The Last Battle (1956)


A Book Review—the Holy Bible

posted Apr 14, 2010, 12:09 AM by I Say You Say   [ updated Apr 14, 2010, 8:12 AM by 外國語文學院英文系 ]

A Book Review—the Holy Bible
Recommanded by Ms. Sophia Chen
       If you struggle to improve your English writing skills, why not read the Bible and pore over every word, phrase, or sentence in it?  You’ll find that the Bible is one of the greatest writings of all time.  You’ll be attracted by the beautiful language there in the Bible.  You’ll know some sentence structure secrets, such as Variations in Climactic Order, Repetition Emphasizes Key Elements, Combine Repetition with Climactic Order, Inversions, etc. Here are some examples:

Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy, love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up; it is not rude, it is not self-seeking; is not provoked; thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
(From The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
(From The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:11)

For now we see as through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know fully, even as I am fully known.
(From The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:12)


Beyond a reasonable doubt, Bible reading will strengthen your grammar, writing, and spelling skills.  Moreover, it will bring confidence and better grades.

       If you intend to cultivate a taste for English literature, the Bible can be your best choice to broaden your literary mind.  The Bible is partly in prose and partly in verse.  It contains lots of stories, love lyric, epigram, psalms, elegy, and letters.  The themes of the Bible are among the greatest that literature can treat: God, humanity, the physical universe, and their interrelations.  The characters in the Bible are all fascinating. Some are heroic, others are villains, and many occupy the intriguing grey area in between – good men who do something awful (Moses, who kills a man; Peter, who denies knowing Jesus) or cowards whose find courage (Jonah, who tries to run away from God). Moreover, the Bible is rich in language.  Whenever we read the words of the Bible, we are faced with a choice: literal meanings or figurative meanings?  Does God intend this passage to be taken literally, or is the meaning symbolic or metaphorical? Is the language used strictly literal or is it a figure of speech?  In a word, the high literary value of many parts of the Bible has been almost universally recognized.  But, the Bible is written at a popular grade level and is consequently very easy to understand.  As an aspiring English major, you’ll probably miss out on so much richness in English literature if you can’t pick up the Biblical references.  So, why not start reading the Bible right now?

     Or, if you mean to sublimate your mind and soul, I believe that God inspired every word of the Bible.  If you read the Bible, you will be able to see what God tries to tell us. His intent is to purify one’s mind by returning to that of a little child who has not yet developed a mature ego.  A child, although also touched by the primordial fall, is closer to the true source of knowing than an adult. Simple and spontaneous, he knows without knowing how he knows. He can be happy without knowing he is happy. What adults often consider happiness is in reality the emotional excitement of the ego; while a little child's happiness consists in the simple, selfless joy of being alive. Or, you’ve just got a devotional revelation from God when reading Psalm 65:9-13:

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, you settle its furrows; you make it soft with showers, you bless its growth. You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths drip with abundance. They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered with grain; they shout for joy, they also sing.

The psalms speak of nature’s bounty, a gift from a righteous, gracious, merciful, and loving Creator.  Then, you are overwhelmed with gratitude, satisfied, and happy.

     Bible Reading is beneficial, isn’t it?


A Tangled Web

posted Feb 7, 2010, 4:07 AM by I Say You Say   [ updated Feb 7, 2010, 4:14 AM ]

A Tangled Web

Recommended by Ms. Li-Wen Chang


Cambridge English Readers is one of the best choices for students interested in extensive reading. Here is a quotation from Cambridge University ELT website:

Original stories at seven levels from starter to advanced, written specially for learners of English. With gripping plots and a range of genres to satisfy every taste, Cambridge English Readers offer high-quality original fiction that students will love! The highest quality of writing and storytelling is combined with the greatest sensitivity to the learner's language level, to ensure an enjoyable and successful learning experience, with learners eager to finish one book and start the next.


      One of the books in Cambridge English Readers-Level 5, A Tangled Web is written by Alan Maley, a scholar who has been working in the field of TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) for almost half a century and a productive writer who has published over thirty books and numerous articles about English Language Education. Categorized as a thriller, A Tangled Web centers on Dan Combes’s journey of initiation from which he learns to face his past: a tangled web of pretense and lies. The novella includes themes of violence, murder, sex, smuggling, and treachery, but under Maley’s careful control of language, it appears a detective story suitable for English learners in high schools and colleges. It is easy to read, and so is it well within the linguistic and language competence of the students.  


      After being attacked by a former colleague, Dan begins an examination of his relationship with the British Secret Service and an inspection on his last mission, “The San Cristobal Operation.” What Dan originally hopes to find out is the reason for the attack, but through the process of investigation, he digs out some ugly truth about the dominant figures in different organizations, and meanwhile, he learns to face his personal problems with his family members, particularly with his daughter. The story is open-ended, but from Dan’s psychological development, the wise readers can make predictions about what he is going to do next.


Pride and Prejudice

posted Jan 30, 2010, 8:29 PM by I Say You Say   [ updated Jan 30, 2010, 8:37 PM ]

Pride and Prejudice


Recommended by Ms. Li-Wen Chang

Ever since its first publication in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has never lost its popularity in either academia or market. Doubtlessly recent movies such as “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001), “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” (2004), “Pride and Prejudice” (2005), “Becoming Jane” (2007), and “The Jane Austen Book Club” (2007) have reinforced the public interest in Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, a novel that utilizes the theme of marriage to demonstrate the social manners, gender relationship, class issues, and moral standard in the U.K. at the turn of the nineteenth century.


One can easily perceive Austen’s humor and sarcasm on the marriage institution of her day from the very first sentence of the novel, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” A keen observer of her time and people in her social class, Austen is crystal clear about the meaning and function of marriage to both men and women. With the romances of the Bennet daughters, Austen not only exposes class hierarchy and the snobbishness of the upper/middle class, she also highlights how the social norms help to establish and stabilize gender stereotypes and the forms of courtship. With the seven marriage presented in the novel, moreover, Austen subtly ridicules traditional conjugal union, yet she does not forget to remind her readers that true love, while assisting people transcend class and social boundaries, is the essential foundation of a successful marriage.


Presented in third-person point of view, the story is basically told through Elizabeth Bennet: the ways she criticizes conventional matrimony, condemns class divisions, and generalizes people from the wealthy families. Her relationship with Mr. Darcy, meanwhile, underscores the title of the novel–her “prejudice” against his “pride.” It is not necessary for us to make a quick match and equate Darcy with “pride” and Elizabeth with “prejudice,” since both characters possess the two features that prevent them from seeing the truths and understanding each other. What we should pay special attention to, however, is how first impression (the original title) attach people to stereotypes, and how love melts antagonism between people in different classes. What we should also take into consideration is how this old novel goes beyond time and space and always remains in top 10 novels.

A Christmas Carol

posted Jan 24, 2010, 8:38 PM by I Say You Say   [ updated Jan 25, 2010, 4:23 AM ]

A Christmas Carol

   Recommended by Ms. Li-Wen Chang



    Written by Charles Dickens and published firstly in 1843, A Christmas Carol remains one of the most famous British novels nowadays and has been adapted to film, opera, musical, and other media. You might not have seen the movie “A Christmas Carol” (2009) that stars Jim Carrey in a multitude of roles, but you must have heard of Dickens’ story and known how the three Christmas ghosts haunt the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, and make him realize the genuine meaning of love, generosity, and humanity.


     With a simple plot structure, A Christmas Carol starts with Scrooge’s unlikeable personality, his mistreatment of his clerk Bob Cratchit, refusal to contribute to the charity, and distain to Christmas traditions. On Christmas Eve, after the spirit of his dead partner Jacob Marley warns him about the upcoming punishment for his greed and stinginess, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts respectively. The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, escorts Scrooge on a journey into the past and hence stirs the tender side of the curmudgeon. Afterward, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes our miser to different scenes, shows him how people are spending their Christmas Eve, and consequently evinces from Scrooge a sense of responsibility for his fellow men. The third spirit, the Ghost of Yet to Come, shows Scrooge mysterious scenes relating to his miserable death and the tragedy in the Cratchit, which together prompt the miser to change his evil habits and renounce his avaricious ways. Scrooge awakens Christmas morning with joy by the chance to redeem himself. The dream of the ghosts has changed him overnight. No longer a mean-spirited old man, he learns to share with people and to treat his fellow men with kindness and generosity at the end of the story.


      What lies beneath the story’s plain narrative and Scrooge’s redemption is a moral lesson that insensitive person could be converted into a charitable agent in society if s/he could empathize with others. Underneath the appropriate stimulation and guidance, even the nasty Scrooge re-discovers his sensibility and re-develops his emotional connection with others around him. We might be like Scrooge on some level when we pay all the attention to ourselves and show zero interest to others’ pains or problems. However, as Charles Dickens suggests with the novella, so long as we stop being self-serving and egoistic, we will, like the reborn Scrooge, feel euphoric in  helping those in need and devoting ourselves to better the world.

The Secret

posted Dec 1, 2009, 9:13 AM by I Say You Say   [ updated Dec 8, 2009, 7:04 AM ]


The Secret

Recommended by Ms. Sophia Chen




The Secret

Hardbook edition cover


Rhonda Byrne


Australia, USA




Self Help Spiritual


Atria Books
Beyond Words Publishing


date     November 2006

Media type

Print (hardcover, paperback), audio cassette and CD, ebook ([Kindle])


198 pp (first edition, hardcover)


ISBN 978-1582701707 (first edition, hardcover)


The Secret is a best-selling 2006 self-help and spirituality book written by Rhonda Byrne. In the book Byrne presents what is claimed to be a centuries-old technique of the Law of Attraction, which in essence is the power of an individual's positive thinking to change and influence outcomes in his life. Through understanding the cosmos and positive thinking, an individual can influence it for his own personal gain and benefit.  The claims are lofty: “There isn’t a single thing that you cannot do with this knowledge. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, The Secret can give you whatever you want.”

The steps to utilize this law in life are:

Believe, and you shall receive.

Have positive thoughts.

Know what you want and ask the universe for it.

Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way.

Be open to receiving it.

Byrne puts you in the place of God. She argues that "the secret" of the law of attraction originates from the cosmos. The law, as the most powerful law in the universe, continues in logical progression until it arrives at the inevitable end result of ascribing divinity to humanity.

Look at lovely things around you—clouds and flowers and butterflies, green leaves and flashing wings—you will find the beauty round you everywhere. Water flows gently for You. Roses bloom in summer hours for You. Spring comes for You. Every day the sun comes up and goes down for You. The stars come out for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the Universe. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know the secret of the universe.

She goes on: “You are God in physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet.” The law offers no higher power than yourself.

Thus your thoughts become things. You are the most powerful power in the universe simply because whatever you think about will come to be. You shape the world that exists around you. You shape your own life and destiny through the power of your mind.

The Secret is such an amazing book.  I really do believe in it. Imagine that: The Secret can give you whatever you want. Can you resist that claim?


Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”

posted Nov 17, 2009, 6:10 AM by I Say You Say   [ updated Dec 8, 2009, 6:32 AM ]


Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”

Recommended by Ms. I-Hsin Kai


The Theme

(a) The trouble with Miss Emily is her obstinate refusal to submit to, or even to concede, the inevitability of change. Thus her refusal to pay taxes, the dust in her house, and the murder of Homer. The theme of the story can be stated: "If one resists change, he must love and live with death"; implicit in this theme is a criticism of the South

(b) Miss Emily’s resistance to change is certainly untenable, but the meaning of the story must be expanded to include man’s relation to time: Emily becomes monstrous (like her house) when she resists the passage of time; she passes from the normal time-world to a world in which she denies time, even to the point of ignoring death (Homer’s). Faulkner presents two conflicting views of time: time as a huge meadow which no winter touches; time as a mechanical progression in which the past is a diminishing road.  Both views imply social criticism: the first suggests the South (Emily, the Griersons, the old Confederate soldiers); the second the North (Homer, and the “modern” younger generation). Death is the final sign of the passage of time, and Emily pretends that it (like the sheriff's tax bill) does not exist. The theme of the story might be stated: “One must neither resist nor wholly accept change, for to do either is to live as though one were never to die; i.e., to live with death without knowing it.”

(c) The title of “A Rose for Emily” warrants closer examination: the noun rose does not appear in the story itself; the only use of the word is as an adjective (when the bridal suite is broken open there are curtains “of faded rose color” and “rose-shaded lights”). What does the title imply, then? One implication is that Miss Emily deserves a rose for having attempted to triumph over time and place in her quest for love: “We in Jefferson” offer her a rose – the traditional symbol of love, as a mark of affection and admiration. A second implication is that Miss Emily has come ironically to stand for a rose – the treasured memory of old Confederate veterans and the moral censure of the righteous and curious; she has become the “rose of Jefferson.” Beside these implication there is in Faulkner’s symbolic use of the rose an echo of Shakespeare’s phase from Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Faulkner’s subtle and gruesome treatment of odors in the story makes this implication inevitable.


Abstracted from:

(a) C. W. M. Johnson, Explicator, VI (May 1948), 45;

(b) Ray B. West, Jr. Explicator, VI (October 1948), 8;

(c) William T. Going, Explicator, XVI (February 1958), 27.


● The Corpse

(a) “A Rose for Emily” is not the story of a woman who has killed her lover and lain” for years beside his decaying corpse. The long strand of iron-gray hair left on the pillow beside the dead man has led readers to believe that Miss Emily kept the body of her dead lover for morbid purposes, but there is no evidence in the story “that she lay in bed with Homer Barron after the night she murdered him. Details at the end of the narrative (the breaking of the door and the dust) indicate that no one, not even Miss Emily, had visited the room since it was closed up forty years before; nothing inside the room suggests that she had been a visitor there. Further, Miss Emily’s hair had been gray for many years, we are told, and it may reasonably be assumed that her hair was graying during the affair with Homer and that the “one long strand” found in his bed was left there the night she murdered him. However abnormal her mental processes may have been, there is no basis for the assumption that Miss Emily spent the last forty years of her life cohabiting with a corpse. The story is not a mere terror tale without moral implications.

(b) Although Miss Emily may not have spent forty years “cohabiting with a corpse,” evidence in the story suggests that though she did not enter her dead lover’s room for many years before her own death, she did lie with him months and perhaps years after she murdered him. Nowhere in the story is there an explicit statement or suggestion that the long strand of hair was left the night of the murder. But we do know that Miss Emily’s hair was cut short after her father’s death, just prior to her meeting Homer; it would ordinarily take months (or, depending upon what exactly “short” and “long” mean, years) for it to grow long. There is no mention in the story of Emily’s hair graying during the affair, even though the townspeople saw her on several occasions. It was not until six months after the murder that Emily appeared on the streets and people noticed for the first time that her hair was turning gray. These facts imply that Emily did lie beside the decaying corpse of her lover; on the other hand the “pervading dust” in the room indicates that she had not done so for some years prior to her death.

(c) The fact that Homer's body still shows “the attitude of an embrace” and that, there, is “the indentation of a head” on the second pillow does not necessarily mean that Miss Emily had lain beside the decaying corpse of her lover; it merely demonstrates that she had lain beside the living – or dying – Homer. Only the long strand of iron-gray hair could be construed as evidence of necrophilia, but there is a more reasonable meaning to that hair. A “strand of hair” must be read as a “lock of hair” because a single gray hair would hardly have been discernible under the heavy coating of dust. But why a lock of hair? Emily might naturally have lost some single hairs, but a “strand’ requires deliberate cutting. Once before, after her father’s death, she is said to have cut her hair short. The explanation is that Emily consciously cut off the strand of hair and placed it on the pillow, presumably on the day when she locked the room for good. The act of cutting off one’s hair (or locks of it) was, among the ancient Greeks, a ritual gesture of grief and farewell or remembrance at the corpse or grave of a beloved person (Emily’s lover is, after all, named Homer). Emily’s gesture—the placing of a strand of hair near the corpse of a loved one is a conscious demonstration of grief and farewell; not a signal of necrophilia, and as such lends classic dignity and grace to Emily’s despair.

Abstracted from:

(a) Elmo Howell, Explicator, XJX (January 1961), 26;

(b) Arthur L. Clements, Explicator, XX  (May 1962), 78;

(c) John V. Hagopian and Martin Dolch,  Explicator, XXII (April 1964), 68.


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