Conformity in society is hinged on various factors. People are expected to act, speak, and live their lives based on certain factors that are believed to be definitive of who they are. What society perceives people to be is the basis by which people are expected to act. Social behavior is often defined according to the social class to which a person belongs to.
“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner provides a clear illustration as to how social behavior is correlated with social class. Emily lived her life according to the confines and directs of society. Being part of the noblesse oblige, she was expected to act a certain way. She was somewhat a celebrity of her town and her every move was constantly watched. Any diversion what from what was expected of her often resulted to the circulation of gossips and rumors. For instance, when Emily began to spend time with Homer Barron, the townspeople started to talk about their relationship. Emily was criticized by some for entering into a relationship with someone from a lower social class for Homer was a day laborer. Faulkner wrote, “At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.” But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige- – without calling it noblesse oblige.” The mere fact that she was getting close to Barron made the people think less of her. Some thought that such act was not what a lady of her stature should be doing. Wealthy people are expected to interact with people from their own class. More importantly, people in higher stature are expected to marry or enter relationships with people of the same stature. As Lewin (2005) wrote, “Marriages that cross class boundaries may not present as obvious a set of challenges as those that cross the lines of race or nationality… In cross-class marriages, one partner will usually have more money, more options and, almost inevitably, more power in the relationship.”
The attention that people often placed on Emily is indicative of the many conventions that Emily had to follow. She was expected to walk around town and socialize. Although the people of the town often felt pity for her, such pity is misguided. They pity her not because of the severity of her plight; they pity her because she was not acting like how she is supposed to act, like how they expect her to act. When Emily started to act foul, they criticized her even further. Faulkner wrote, “Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people.”
Emily can be seen as the celebrities of today. Much attention is constantly placed on them. Celebrities are constantly watched. Their every move is criticized; their every word is analyzed. When they misbehave, they are thrust towards the center and are ridiculed. In a way, celebrities today are the elite and wealthy class of Emily’s time. They, like Emily, are expected to conform to certain social behavior. Deviating from such societal dictates results to ridicule and criticism. (Poticella, 2007)
Social behavior is intertwined with social class. This is evident in Emily’s life. The expectations people have of her are solely based on her membership of society’s elite class.
Lewin, Tamar. “When Richer Weds Poorer, Money Isn’t the Only Difference.” The New York Times, May 19, 2005 Online. 2008-08-04 ;http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/19/national/class/MARRIAGE-FINAL.html?_r=1;oref=slogin;.
Porticella, Norman. “Thinking About Celebrities: Implicit Activation and Pursuit of Helping Behavior” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, San Francisco, CA, May 23, 2007 Online ;PDF;. 2008-08-04 ;http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p173026_index.html;