A Rose For Emily

William Faulker’s ” A Rose for Emily” tells the story of a young
woman who is violated by her father’s strict mentality. After being the only
man in her life Emily’s father dies and she finds it hard to let go. Emily
was raised in the ante-bellum period before the Civil War. This story takes
place in the Reconstruction Era after the war when the North takes control of
the South. Like her father, Miss Emily possesses a stubborn outlook towards
life and refuses to change. This short story explains Emily, her mystified
ways and the townsfolk’s sympathetic curiosity.

The plot of the story is mainly about Miss Emily’s attitude about
change. “On the first of the year they mailed her a tax notice. February came
and there was no reply. They wrote her a formal letter asking her to call the
sheriff’s office at her convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her
herself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a
note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded
ink, to the effect that’s he no longer went out at all. The tax notice was
enclosed, without comment.” (189). Miss Emily was convinced that she had no
taxes in Jefferson because before the Civil War the South didn’t have to pay
taxes and since her father had made a contribution to the town of a generous
amount, Colonel Sartoris, mayor at that time had remitted her taxes, she felt
that that promise or rather gift still stood good. “After her father’s death
she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw
her at all.”(190). Miss Emily might have stayed out the public eye after
those two deaths because she was finally alone, something she in her life was
not used to. Emily’s father never let her alone and when he died Homer Baron
was a treat she was never allowed to have. Miss Emily’s stubborn attitude
definitely came from her father’s strict teachings.

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The characters of this story are very briefly mentioned, Miss Emily
and Mr. Homer Barron are the two main characters described. Miss Emily was
described as a short, fat, aged and mysterious women during her later years.
Miss Emily had been through much and had seen many generations grow before
and around her. This brings to reason her strong Confederate beliefs. Homer
Barron; on the other hand was quite the opposite, “A Yankee-a big, dark,
ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face,”(191). Homer
described himself as man who couldn’t be tied down. This had to be a terrible
opposition for Miss Emily. Towards the end of the story Emily seems to prove
him wrong.

The setting of this passage is highly essential because it defines
Miss Emily’s grasp of ante-bellum ways. This story take place throughout the
Reconstruction Era from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s in Jefferson,
Mississippi. Jefferson was just one of the many Southern towns which was
reformed by Northern reconstruction. The confederate quickly deteriorated
without free labor to aid their farms and plantations. Miss Emily refused to
allow modern change into her desolate life. For example she refused to let
the newer generation fasten metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox
when Jefferson got free mail service. This reflects Miss Emily’s unyielding
persona caused by her father’s treatment when she was young. When Miss
Emily’s death occurred the newer Jefferson generations were left without an
ante-bellum perspective.

“A Rose for Emily” is told through the eyes of the townspeople which
is an example of limited omniscient; a narrator inside the work telling the
story. Faulkner expressed a lot of the resident’s opinions towards Emily and
her family’s history. They mention old lady Wyatt, her great aunt who had
gone completely mad. These opinions seem to come from female members of the
town because they have a nosy approach. “At first we were glad Miss Emily
would have an interest, because the ladies all said, ‘Of course a Grierson
would not think seriously of a Northerner, a laborer.'”(191). The ladies
continue to throw sympathy towards Miss Emily, although she never hears it.
She is slightly aware of the faint whispers that began when her presence
draws near. Gossip and whispers might have been the causes of her ghastly
behavior.

The story’s theme is simple, Miss Emily cannot accept the fact that the times
are changing and society is growing. With this dilemma she isolates herself
from civilization, using her butler, Tobe, to run her errands. Maybe Miss
Emily was shy about her old-fashioned ways and beliefs. If no one was to
observe her then no one could force her to change. “She died in one of the
downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain, her gray head propped
on a pillow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.”(194). This might have
been a horrible way to die because no one was quickly informed of her death,
no one knew how the tragedy occurred and she died in solitude, all alone.
When Miss Emily died Jefferson lost a monument of the Old South.

This passage contains a high rate of symbolism, icing on the cake as far as
the work is involved. “A small, fat, woman in black, with a thin gold chain
descending to her waist and vanishing in to her belt.”(189). The hidden
timepiece at the end of Emily’s chain symbolizes how time has been hidden
from her all these years. This hidden time results in her stubborn unchanging
ways. “Only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting it’s stubborn and coquettish
decay above the cotton wagons and gasoline pumps.”(188). Her house represents
the Old South, almost like Miss Emily is the only one left to face a modern
generation. This could be the reason why she remained isolated for such a
long span of her life.

This story’s tone is disturbing. ” When the Negro opened the blinds of one of
the windows, they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they sat
down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow
motes in the single sun-ray.”(189). The dust leaves an old and sluggish
impression. The reader can almost inhale the motes of aged old dust. “Then we
noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us
lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust
dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a ling strand of iron gray hair.”(195).
This excerpt leaves the reader shocked and disgusted.

Faulkner’s style is quite difficult to read because it isn’t written in
chronological order. It begins by telling about Emily’s past and her family
history. This information explains her future behavior and opinions. The
ending seems rather abrupt and sudden, but very chilling and non-expectant.
The diction and sentence structures are fairly advanced, but soon lead to a
greater understanding of the passage because it sets the mood of that
specific time. “And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of
those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the
ranked and anonymous graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at
battle of Jefferson”. (194). Terms like this were used throughout to aid in
setting the Reconstruction Era mood.

In conclusion, “A Rose for Emily” is a shocking tale about Emily Grierson,
her love, and her inability to accept change. Emily is a prime example of the
Old South and it’s changing hardships.