A Rose For Emily? A Closer Look Essay, Research Paper
William Faulkner?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, she 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. Febuary came and there was no reply.
They wrote her a formal letter asking her to call at the sheriff?s office at her
convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her himself, 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 she no longer went out at all. The
tax notice was also enclosed, without comment,? (40-41). Miss Emily was convinced
that she had no taxes in Jefferson because before the Civil War the South didn?t have
to pay. This change occurred when the North took over the South. ?After her
father?s death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly
saw her at all,? (41). Miss Emily might have stayed out of the public eye after these
two deaths because she was finally alone, something she in her petty life was not used
to. Emily?s father never let her alone and when he died Homer Barron was a treat
that she was never allowed to have. Miss Emily?s stubborn attitude definitely came
from her father?s strict teachings.
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 woman. Miss Emily had been through much and
has seen many generations grow before and around her. This brings reason to her
strong Confederate beliefs. Homer 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,? (43).
Homer described himself as a 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 tight
grasp of ante-bellum ways. This story takes place throughout the Reconstruction Era
from the late 1800s to the early 1900s in Jefferson, Mississippi. Jefferson was just
one of the many Southern towns which was reformed by Northern reconstruction.
The Confederate economy quickly deteriorated without free labor to aid in 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 Miss 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 day
laborer.?,? (43). The ladies continue to throw sympathy towards Emily, although she
never hears of 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
The story?s theme is simple, Miss Emily cannot except the fact that 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 is shy
about her old fashioned 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 yellow and moldy with age and lack of
sunlight,? (45). This might have been a horrible way to die because no one was
quickly informed of the death, and know one knew how the tragedy occurred. 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 woman in black, with a thin gold
chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt,? (41). The hidden watch
at the end of Emily?s chain symbolizes how time has been hidden from her all of
these years. This hidden time results in her stubborn unchanging ways. ?Only Miss
Emily?s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton
wagons and the gasoline pumps,? (40). This house represents the Old South, like
Miss Emily it is the only one of its kind left to face a modern generation. This could
be a reason why she remained isolated for such a long span of her life. Emily, was
just another wrinkle in time accompanied only by dreams and memories.
This story?s tone is disturbing. ?When the Negro opened the blinds of one
window, 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,? (41). The dust leaves an old and sluggish impression. The reader can almost
inhale the motes of age 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 long strand of iron-gray
hair,? (46). This except leaves the reader shocked and disgusted. The tone could
also be sympathetic towards Miss Emily.
Faulkner?s style is quite difficult 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 effects of this method create a better ending
because it catches the reader unexpectedly. The diction and sentence structure are
fairly advanced, but soon leads 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 Union and Confederate soldiers who
fell at battle of Jefferson,? (40). Terms like this were used throughout to aid in
setting the Reconstruction mood. This story also teaches the reader a little more
about the Old South.
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.