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Instead, say Deconstructionists, Reader-Response theorists, and Subjectivist critics such as Stanley Fish, Wolfgang Iser, and Norman Holland, respectively, the classroom should resemble a democracy, a place where competing interpretations vie on a level playing field for favor, a veritable maelstrom of first-amendment praxis. When these students are asked why they believe or suspect that Homer is gay, they invariably cite the following line: "Homer himself had remarked-he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club-that he was not a marrying man" (126) For the sake of argument, and out of deference to the conclusion of many of our students, if not to the current trends in literary theory, let us suppose that Homer Barron is, or might be, homosexual-that he really likes men.As Fish proclaims in his famous essay "Is There A Text In This Class? How would this presumption affect, in some ways govern, our reading of the story?
These same students might be heartened to learn that an obstinate allegiance to their own particular reading of the text, any text, is validated by the most voguish literary theory. If this is the case, then meaning is not something one discovers or extracts but, rather, something one confers or creates.
According to the new paradigm that obtains in the classroom-at least among the avant-garde--teachers should no longer assume the role of hierophant, the initiated priest practiced in the freemasonry of literary hermeneutics, while students, benighted acolytes, gape and scribble down our oracular pronouncements. This model supplants the old aristocratic ideal, where a powerful, privileged reader-the teacher-dispenses authorized readings, ex cathedra, to mute vassals.
Does Emily kill Homer because she discovers the truth and feels betrayed, or to save her friend from a "barren" life marred by episodes of degenerate abandon?
Is she, in other words, like the old women in Arsenic and Old Lace, kindly poisoning hopelessly lonely men to put them out of their misery?
Thus, as our brighter students might reasonably argue, if Emily Grierson so adamantly defies appearances, and convention, why not Homer Barron, her immortally beloved?
Thematically, would it not be fitting if Homer, too, were not what he pretends or is supposed to be?
Positing that Homer Barron is gay not only raises a new set of questions but transforms "A Rose for Emily," or at least our perspective of it, in important ways.
Most importantly, perhaps, it requires that we devote more attention to Homer-if only to account for his enigmatic, transgressive presence-and relatively less to Emily.
And Homer himself is described as a dashing, flamboyant figure--"With his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove" (126)-more of a Colonel Sutpen or Dalton Ames than a Gail Hightower.
If he were simply interested in a temporary dalliance, the cavalier Homer could have done better than the grim, aging Emily Grierson.