A Rose on Sunset Boulevard
The stories of William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Sunset Boulevard are very similar. In fact, Faulkner’s story seems to be the basis of Weber’s. They both revolve around one central female character obsessed with her past and involve a narrator helping the reader or audience follow the story. Both also use flashbacks to help support the ending. Both stories also revolves around a house as the setting for their tragic endings.
The character of Emily Grierson is very similar to Norma Desmonde in the sense that both had experienced a luxurious life in their younger and fresher years. Both were spoiled by a male figure. In Emily’s case, it was her father who protected her from harsh reality. In Norma’s case, it was Max, her ex-film director and first husband, who also built her ego up and shielded her from the raw truth of fallen stardom. Both females also had someone who kept the delusion going for them. In Emily’s case, it was Tobe, her negro helper while Norma had Max. Both had also fallen in love with a young man and sought to keep their lovers beside them by all means. Both women also could not face the harsh truth that their glory days were over and neither could accept the fact that people can just walk away from their lives. Both also eventually killed their lovers out of insanity.
The setting of Faulkner’s story was around the latter 19th century when a lot of political and social changes were evolving from the traditional to the modern era. This was the time when dirt roads were already being paved and a more organized community life was already being placed. Sunset Boulevard is set at the time when film making was also at its turning point from silent movies to talkies. These backgrounds became the source of the central issue or theme of the stories… the problem of acceptance of change. In Emily’s case, she could not accept the idea that her luxurious traditional way of life must give way to new ideologies she had to adapt to like having a postal number address. Norma, on the other hand, could not accept the fact that people wanted to watch movies with sound and dialogue. She got trapped in her past thinking that movie-goers just did not know how to appreciate the beauty of stars like her anymore.
Change and loneliness in the face of being alone in their miserable past was the issue that led both main female characters to insanity. Both also held on to the romantic notion of having a male partner less popular than they to keep their delusions of grandeur. Emily’s Homer Barron was an attractive arrogant laborer who took advantage of her attention but did not seriously want to stay forever by her side. Joe Gillis, on the other hand, did not realize he was trapped in Norma’s romantic delusional world until it was too late for him to walk out on her without feeling guilty over her suicidal attempts. Both, in a sense, took advantage of the romantic notions of the women characters. However, Barron and Gillis also suffered a similar tragic death because the women could not part with them.
Faulkner ended his story by the morbid description of the towns people realizing that Emily had killed Homer Barron years before and that the insane woman had been sleeping with the corpse until she too had died. Norma, on the other hand, claimed her glory in the end of the story by walking through the reporters eager to broadcast her criminal act as if she were again in the limelight of stardom. These may be tragic endings but both conclude the lives of insane women who simply cannot face change in a society that allowed them to wither in their obsessions of the past.