quiltfic.gif (4639 bytes) Litonline--ENG 112


Who or What Is the Rat?

In 1997, Prof. Donna Reiss (Tidewater CC), founding project leader of Litonline, asked:

Look again at the scene where the druggist writes "For Rats" to explain Miss Emily's purchase of poison. What is the social irony of that explanation once we know the outcome of the story?

Jennifer (2003) noted: "I believe the author had other motives for writing "For Rats" on the box. It was a symbol of the view of minorities at the time along with poorer lower classed people. A rat is considered a loathsome creature, and to upper society members the lower class was considered a nuisance which wasn't worthy of time. Emily did use it to get rid of her bothers and cares, much like people who use it to get rid of a pest do! The examples of symbolism are clear!"

Lance (1999) nominates Homer for several reasons: "I fail to see any indication of irony in the druggist's 'for rats' label in the conventional sense of this story. The question is whether Emily cared for Homer for who he was, or what he represented? However, rats are a vermin. Homer was a Yankee in a southern town which struggled to keep its identity. They frowned upon the fact that Emily could even consider entering wedlock with the outsider--not to mention the fact that Homer clung to a much lower rung on the social ladder than the Southern Belle. Adding the fact that Homer was a not too secretive homosexual, or at least bi-sexual, one could view him as a vermin in the midst, threatening not only Emily but the town's identity as well. Under these circumstances, I would find 'for rats' ironic indeed."

Amanda (1999) concurs: "I'm no expert, but when I read 'for rats' and then the ending, I thought Faulkner was comparing Homer Barron to a rat... comparing a rodent to someone who came into town and took advantage of an "innocent" Southern belle and then planned on leaving without any remorse."