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Analysis of William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on June 12, 2021

Initially published in Forum on April 30, 1930, and collected in These Thirteen in 1931, “A Rose for Emily” remains one of William Faulkner’s most read, most anthologized, and most significant stories. From every imaginable perspective, critics have scrutinized the components of Faulkner’s literary technique: The story has been viewed as an allegory of southern history, a metaphorical depiction of NorthSouth relationships, feminist nightmare or feminist victory, a gothic horror story, a sociological portrayal of individualism squelched or individualism triumphant, a bleak fictional tale of determinism. Faulkner’s uses of structure, tone, point of view, and imagery play key roles in his depiction of Miss Emily Grierson. The fact that readers and critics still engage in interpretive debates over its meaning merely ensures that it will continue to be read.

a rose for emily literary analysis essay

Told from the perspective of Jefferson, in Yoknapatawpha County, in a narrative voice that consistently relates the details that “we”—the smug and gossipy townspeople of Jefferson—have observed, the story is intriguing on the level of plot and character alone: Miss Emily has just died, and we learn that she lived alone after her father died and Homer Baron, her Yankee lover, apparently abandoned her. Suspense continues to build when we learn that a mysterious odor emanated from her house at the time that Homer disappeared. Faulkner employs a number of clues to foreshadow both denouement and motivation, including the “tableau” of the imperious father with a horsewhip overshadowing his white-clad young daughter Emily; the portrait of her father that Emily displays at his death, despite his thwarting of her natural youthful desires; her defiant public appearances with the unsuitable Homer Baron; her sense of entitlement; and the arsenic she buys to rid her house of “rats.” Despite these and other devices, however, new generations of readers still react in horror when Emily’s secret is revealed: She not only murdered her lover but slept with his corpse in the attic bridal chamber she carefully prepared.

If Miss Emily is crazy (and most critics agree that she is), Faulkner implies that she has been made so by the constrictions of a father who refused to let her marry and by the conventions of a society that eagerly filled the void at his death. Numerous critics have suggested that behind the gothic horror of necrophilia and insanity in this classic story, Miss Emily Grierson is the oddly modern hero. Indeed, one critic asserts that we cannot understand any of Faulkner’s heroes if we do not understand Miss Emily, for she is the “prototype” of them all (Strindberg 877). As with other troubled Faulknerian protagonists, death literally frees Miss Emily—from patriarchy, from society’s conventions, from sexual repression, from the class structure she was taught to revere, from the useless existence of privileged women of her era, even from the burdens of southern history and slavery: With her death, her black servant, mysteriously complicit in his relation to Miss Emily, walks out of her house at the end of the story. In an interview at the University of Virginia, Faulkner suggested that Miss Emily deserved a rose for all the torment she had endured, and, whatever else they feel, most readers appear to agree with this sentiment.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 Vols. New York: Random House, 1974. Rev. ed., New York: Random House, 1984. Carothers, James. Faulkner’s Short Stories. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985. Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” In Collected Short Stories. New York: Random House, 1940. Ferguson, James. Faulkner’s Short Fiction. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991. Strindberg, Victor. “A Rose for Emily.” In Reader’s Guide to Short Fiction, edited by Noelle Watson, 577. Detroit: St. James Press, 1993.

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A Rose for Emily

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Analysis: “A Rose for Emily”

William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is a short story that uses the life of Emily Grierson as a microcosm to explore the decline of the American South in the years following the Civil War. Emily, a reclusive woman, was once a prominent member of the town’s aristocracy. The story is told through the eyes of the townspeople, who recount Emily’s tragic life and mental decline. The narrative is divided into five sections, each of which reveals a new layer of Emily’s history and personality. Major themes include The Reconstruction Era and the Decline of the Old South , Challenging Early 20th-Century Southern Gender Roles , and The Dangers of Social Isolation .

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Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”: Discussion and Analysis Essay

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner clearly portrays the consequences of maintaining a timeless lifestyle that goes without attempting to move forward or make any sacrifices. Ultimately, people choosing such lifestyles for themselves are often unhappy in the end, as they lose opportunities in the process (Diani, 2019). At the same time, this process is often judged by social standards and may differ for individual cases.

Bailey Basinger’s analysis offers an alternative perspective to the narrative. The author emphasizes the theme of gender roles and their perception in the story of Emily and the rest of the town. Basinger explains that the descriptions of both Emily Grierson and Homer Barron “create tension” from the ways their gender and sexuality are illustrated (Basinger, 2019, p.837). In that way, common contradictions and ambiguous references to the perceived social images of the characters suggest additional questioning of their sexuality and gender representation. The relationship between Emily and Homer being highly secretive also adds to the vagueness of the mentioned themes in this context (Basinger, 2019). Little information is given to draw solid conclusions about their true intentions with the affair, although Basinger refers to even minor details to make such statements.

In that way, Basinger uses quotations abundantly to explicitly demonstrate the contradictions and minimal details included in the text regarding the main characters’ gender identity and sexuality. For instance, quotations are used to illustrate the narrator’s ambiguous physical descriptions of Emily (Basinger, 2019). Besides referring to Faulkner’s short story, Basinger additionally considers the reviews of other literary critics and authors to prove her point. Her use of quotations remains effective throughout the text due to their strategic placement after each argument or point being made. Basinger extracts quotations from different parts of the text to be used in one explanation, as in the example of the symbolism behind Emily’s hair (Basinger, 2019). Hence, the author’s use of quotations proves extremely effective for the general points she made. At the same time, additional quotations could have been used to support her claim.

“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” (Faulkner, 2019, p.856). The quote illustrates the despairing scene of Emily passing away in the presence of only the things she surrounded herself with and no family or friends. The hair symbolism that is related to tensions around Emily’s gender identity prevails once again (Basinger, 2019). Therefore, it would be useful in reemphasizing the effect of hairstyle manipulations on the perception of a character.

“We had long thought of them as a tableau; Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a straddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door” (Faulkner, 2019, p.854). This fragment refers to the social view of the Grierson family; more specifically, the townspeople’s attempts to understand Emily’s marital status are clear indications of her unset sexuality. This quote would be used to highlight the social expectations for Emily’s relationship status.

“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (Faulkner, 2019, p. 851). The general perception of the character is repeatedly forced into social standards set by the town. This quote explains the limited abilities of the characters to express or rethink their sexuality or gender identity as traditions control them. Hence, incorporating this quote into Basinger’s analysis would aid in accentuating her point of “…prejudices in the town…” (Basinger, 2019, p.838). In that way, the story of Emily and Homer, including their gender identity expression, is introduced in Faulkner’s short story and is further explored in Basinger’s work. The idea of ambiguous gender identities and sexuality was demonstrated through the use of quotations and examples from the text.

Basinger, B. (2019). Tension, contradiction, and ambiguity: Gender roles in ‘A Rose for Emily’. In R. Bullock & M.D. Goggin (Eds.), The Norton field guide to writings with readings (5th ed.), pp. 851-860. W.W. Norton.

Diani, I. (2019). Structural analysis of ‘Rose for Emily’: A short story by William Faulkner. In International Seminar and Annual Meeting BKS-PTN Wilayah Barat, 1 (1).

Faulkner, W. (2019). A Rose for Emily. In R. Bullock & M.D. Goggin (Eds.), The Norton field guide to writings with readings (5th ed.), pp. 851-860. W.W. Norton.

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IvyPanda. (2023, May 12). Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily”: Discussion and Analysis. https://ivypanda.com/essays/faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-discussion-and-analysis/

"Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily”: Discussion and Analysis." IvyPanda , 12 May 2023, ivypanda.com/essays/faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-discussion-and-analysis/.

IvyPanda . (2023) 'Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily”: Discussion and Analysis'. 12 May.

IvyPanda . 2023. "Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily”: Discussion and Analysis." May 12, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-discussion-and-analysis/.

1. IvyPanda . "Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily”: Discussion and Analysis." May 12, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-discussion-and-analysis/.

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IvyPanda . "Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily”: Discussion and Analysis." May 12, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-discussion-and-analysis/.

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a rose for emily literary analysis essay

A Rose for Emily

William faulkner, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon

The Post Civil-War South

Before the American Civil War (known as the “antebellum South”), the South’s economy relied on the agricultural output of plantations, large farms owned by wealthy Southern whites who exploited black slave labor to keep operating costs as low as possible. By its very nature, plantation life gave rise to a rigid social hierarchy—one in which wealthy white farmers were treated like aristocrats, middle-class and poor whites like commoners, and blacks like property. Along with this…

The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon

Tradition vs. Progress

Even as white Southerners in the short story cling to their pre-Civil War traditions, ideals, and institutions, the world around them is quickly changing. Agriculture is being supplanted by industry, and aristocratic neighborhoods with their proud plantation-style houses like the Grierson’s are being encroached upon by less grandiose but more economically practical garages and cotton gins. Likewise, the post- Sartoris generation of authorities in Jefferson—those men who belong to the Board of Aldermen that governs…

Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon

Patriarchal Authority and Control

Members of Jefferson’s Board of Alderman, whether old and gallant and nostalgic for the Old South like Sartoris or young and business-like such as the newer generation of authorities, all have something in common: they are all male and govern over—and to the exclusion of—women. Faulkner foregrounds this dynamic when he has his narrator recall Sartoris’s law requiring all black women to wear their aprons in public, and dramatizes it in Miss Emily’s relationships with…

Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon

Time and Narrative

“A Rose for Emily” is not a linear story, where the first event treated brings about the next, and so on—rather, it is nonlinear, jumping back and forth in time. However, there is a method to this temporal madness: the story opens with Miss Emily’s funeral, then goes back in time, slowly revealing the central events of Miss Emily’s life, before going back forward in time to the funeral. There, in the story’s final scene…

Time and Narrative Theme Icon

Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment

“A Rose for Emily” is narrated by a plural “we” voice, which stands in for the memory of the collective town. In this way, the story can be read as the town’s collective, nostalgically tinged, darkly disturbed memory. And yet that collective voice has a darker edge than a simple collective memory. Because of that collective narrator, “A Rose for Emily” is also a collection of town gossip centering on Miss Emily , generated by…

Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon

Interesting Literature

The Symbolism of ‘A Rose for Emily’ Explained

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘A Rose for Emily’ is one of the most widely studied American short stories of the twentieth century, but the subtle narrative style and William Faulkner’s use of symbolism are often difficult to interpret. Starting with the ‘rose’ in the story’s title, the text is rich with symbols whose significance can only be determined through careful analysis.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most prominent symbols and images in ‘A Rose for Emily’ and explore how – and why – Faulkner uses them in his short masterpiece of Southern Gothic literature.

Emily’s House.

The narrator of ‘A Rose for Emily’ tells us that Miss Emily’s house was the only old house left in the street, and that ‘garages and cotton gins’ had sprung up and replaced the other houses that had once stood alongside Emily’s dwelling.

Emily’s house, then, symbolises the Old South, which is (literally) decaying and dying out. And replacing the pastoral homeliness of the old, post-war South is the new industrial America: cotton and gasoline are now the way the townspeople make their money. The new industrial South is replacing the older, simpler bucolic South.

The Locked Room.

But it is worth remembering that ‘A Rose for Emily’ is, at bottom, a Gothic story: an example of the subgenre known as Southern Gothic literature, which is associated with writers like Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, and Faulkner himself.

And if Emily’s house symbolises a kind of modern, urban equivalent to the secluded Gothic castle in classic Gothic horror novels, then the locked room in the house’s attic is a kind of inversion of the crypt harbouring a dark secret beneath the castle. The room does indeed contain a terrible secret which will only be revealed at the end of the story, once Emily herself is dead and the townsfolk can gain access to the house.

But as well as being a narrative device, the locked room is also another symbol for Miss Emily’s determination to cling to the past (of which more below). She sets up the room as a bridal chamber for a wedding that will never take place, and then keeps her would-be groom – or his corpse, at any rate – inside the room, a symbol of her reluctance to let go of her romantic bond with him.

Emily Herself.

Miss Emily Grierson is herself a symbol of this faded glory of the South: a land that had been defeated militarily in the Civil War and whose old ways were being ousted by the new, industrial, mechanical age (those cotton wagons and garages selling gasoline for motorcars).

At the beginning of ‘A Rose for Emily’, the narrator describes her as a ‘monument’ for whom the men of the town have a kind of ‘respectful affection’. She has endured in the town during a time when many new generations have grown up and taken over the running of Jefferson. She remains largely unchanged; her death symbolises the death of another piece of that old world.

Why does Faulkner title his story ‘A Rose for Emily’? No roses appear in the story itself, although the attic room which features at the end of the story, the would-be bridal chamber in which Homer Barron’s body rots, is described as having valance curtains of a faded rose colour and rose-shaded lights.

Note that the curtains are ‘a faded rose colour’, not only because they have been in the attic room for decades (since Emily planned to marry, and then ended up murdering, Homer), but because they symbolise the faded dreams of sexual fulfilment and marital love which Emily, through her engagement to Homer Barron, had entertained.

But these rose-coloured details convey more than Emily’s thwarted sense of womanhood and romantic love.

William Faulkner himself provided us with a clue, and suggested, in an interview he gave at the University of Virginia, that Emily deserved to be given a rose as a ‘gesture’ or ‘salute’ because of all of the torment she had endured: at the hands of her father, perhaps at the hands of Homer as well, and as a result of the townsfolk treating her like an outsider. A rose is a decidedly romantic gift, one which a man might give to a lady as a mark of admiration or respect.

Indeed, roses are rich in symbolism : they are associated with love and romance, but also with an overly romantic view of the past, as in the phrase ‘rose-tinted spectacles’. ‘A Rose for Emily’ is a story about a woman who is, in a sense, trapped in the past: she is reluctant to give up the dead body of her father when he dies, and she is unwilling to let Homer leave her, being prepared to kill him in order to keep him in her life.

For the next few decades, she keeps him in the attic chamber so she can, in effect, arrest the passage of time and keep him close to her.

So the ‘rose’ for Emily also symbolises the romance of the Old South: a land of idealism and tradition, looking back to a feudal European past of the Middle Ages (as Mark Twain pointed out , it was Sir Walter Scott’s medieval romance Ivanhoe , more than Uncle Tom’s Cabin , that was really the book that caused the Civil War).

Emily’s Hair.

When the rotting body of Homer Barron is discovered in the bedroom of Emily’s house, the narrator observes that the pillow next to the body showed signs of an indentation, suggesting that Emily had been in the habit of lying next to the body with her head resting on the pillow next to his head (although not everyone believes this theory). One lock of her iron-grey hair is found on the pillow, confirming this.

The hair is described as iron -grey, symbolising the iron tenacity of Emily in keeping Homer close to her – in death, if that’s what it took (and it clearly did take that). The ‘iron’ is appropriate, since Emily is a character who is seen to be clinging to other things: to her father’s body when he dies (she is reluctant to give it up to the ministers for burial), to Homer when he rejects her, and, most of all, to a past that no longer exists.

The lock of her hair is also a symbol of Emily’s strange tenderness towards Homer – a man she killed in an act of mad, obsessive love. But Emily’s hair is significant throughout the story: earlier, the narrator told her that she cut her hair short after her father died.

This can be interpreted as a declaration of her independence – one cannot imagine her father letting her wear her hair in such an unladylike fashion – but as with so many of the details in the story, her actual motives are inscrutable.

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“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner: Analysis

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, published in 1930, quickly captivated readers for its setting, characters and thematic strands.

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner: Analysis

Introduction: “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

Table of Contents

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, published in 1930, quickly captivated readers for its setting, characters and thematic strands. Set in the fictional Mississippi town of Jefferson, the story centers on Emily Grierson, a mysterious Southern belle whose life and death become an obsession for the townspeople. Faulkner’s masterful use of non-linear storytelling explores themes of tradition, societal change, and the decay of the Old South, solidifying “A Rose for Emily” as a lasting contribution to American literature.

Main Events in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

  • Emily faces her father’s death; her actions shock the community. Emily’s denial of her father’s passing leads her to keep his body within her home for three days, and upon finally releasing the body for burial, she descends into a life of isolation.
  • Years later, Emily challenges the established order. When town officials attempt to collect taxes, Emily not only refuses but insists the town remains indebted to her. Her defiance is mirrored in her seclusion; she rarely ventures from her home, a notable exception being her unsettling purchase of arsenic.
  • A new generation questions Emily’s past as a mysterious romance unfolds. Intrigued by her enigmatic history, the town’s youth fixate on her relationship with Homer Barron, a Northern laborer. Their frequent sightings together incite whispers of an engagement.
  • Emily’s arsenic purchase fuels the townspeople’s fears. Her acquisition of the poison strengthens their belief that she intends suicide, yet no tragedy occurs, and her withdrawn existence continues.
  • Homer’s disappearance ignites speculation, while a disturbing odor emerges. When Homer vanishes, the townspeople’s suspicions swirl. Emily remains unmoved by his absence, but a foul smell from her property raises further alarm.
  • Emily’s death unveils a horrifying truth. Upon her passing, the townspeople infiltrate her home and stumble upon a gruesome secret: Emily had preserved Homer’s corpse and slept beside it for years.
  • A flashback illuminates Emily’s isolation. The narrative returns to the night of her father’s death, exposing his relentless interference in her romantic life, ultimately leading to her desolate existence.
  • The townspeople’s actions offer a twisted form of closure. Their decision to bury Homer within Emily’s home implies a warped sense of fulfillment for her, as if she’d finally obtained the companionship she desperately craved.
  • A haunting image lingers. The story concludes with the chilling visual of a single gray hair on the pillow beside Homer’s remains, suggesting Emily’s disturbing intimacy persisted even beyond his death.
  • The haunting finale prompts contemplation. The story’s final line – “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” – forces the reader to grapple with the complexities of Emily’s character and the story’s central themes.

Characterization in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

Major characters, minor characters, major themes in “a rose for emily” by william faulkner.

  • The Destructive Nature of Isolation:

·  Emily’s Self-Imposed Seclusion: After her father’s death, Emily becomes a recluse, cutting herself off from the outside world.

  • The Consequences of Isolation: Emily’s isolation leads to a warped perception of reality, contributing to her psychological decline and a horrifying secret.

·  The Clash of Tradition vs. Change

  • Emily as a Symbol of the Old South: Emily clings fiercely to the traditions and values of the past, represented by her decaying mansion and her resistance to change.
  • Homer Barron as a Symbol of Progress: Homer, a Northern laborer, represents modernity and change that threaten Emily’s traditional world.
  • The Town’s Ambivalence: The townspeople are caught between a fading past and an uncertain future, reflected in their conflicting attitudes towards Emily.

·  The Fading Glory of the American South

  • The Decaying Grierson Mansion: The once-grand house symbolizes the decline of the Old South and its aristocratic families.
  • Emily’s Resistance to Change: Emily’s insistence on maintaining the status quo mirrors the larger social struggle between tradition and progress in the post-Civil War South.

·  The Illusion of Control

  • Mr. Grierson’s Influence: Emily’s father exerts extreme control over her life, preventing her from marrying and contributing to her isolation.
  • Emily’s Desperate Measures: Emily’s actions with Homer reveal a twisted desire to control love and death, ultimately leading to a horrifying discovery.

·  The Unreliability of Memory and Perception

  • The Non-Linear Narrative: The story’s fragmented timeline blurs the lines between past and present, mirroring the town’s unreliable memory of events.
  • The Townspeople’s Bias: The collective narrator filters events through their own prejudices and limited understanding of Emily, leaving the truth obscured.

Writing Style in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

·  Non-linear Narrative: Faulkner disrupts the traditional flow of time with flashbacks and forward jumps. Examples:

  • The story starts with Emily’s funeral, then flashes back to her relationship with her father.
  • Details about Homer are revealed in fragments, heightening the mystery of his fate.

·  Multiple Narrators and Shifting Points of View: The collective “we” of the townspeople narrates the story, offering a limited perspective. Examples:

  • The townspeople speculate about Emily’s purchase of arsenic, drawing their own assumptions.
  • Their interpretation of events might contrast with the reality of Emily’s motivations.

·  Vivid, Poetic Language: Faulkner uses striking imagery to evoke a sense of gothic decay and despair. Examples:

  • Descriptions of the Grierson mansion as “stubborn and coquettish” and smelling of “dust and disuse.”
  • Emily’s appearance is likened to “a body long submerged in motionless water.”

·  Atmosphere of Foreboding Faulkner crafts a palpable feeling of dread and unease, foreshadowing the macabre ending. Examples:

  • The townspeople’s observations of a strange smell surrounding Emily’s house.
  • Emily’s purchase of arsenic hints at a potentially sinister purpose.

Literary Theories and Interpretation of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

Questions and thesis statements about “a rose for emily” by william faulkner.

1. The Theme of Isolation in “A Rose for Emily”

  • Strong focus: This topic is directly tied to one of the story’s central themes.
  • Character-centered: By analyzing Emily, you can explore how her isolation develops and its consequences.
  • How does the town contribute to her isolation?
  • Is her isolation entirely negative, or does it offer something to her as well?

2. The Role of Gender in “A Rose for Emily”

  • Relevant critique: Gender expectations are a powerful force in the story.
  • Potential for depth: This can be connected to broader themes like Southern womanhood, power dynamics, and societal change.
  • How do the townspeople’s expectations of women both trap and, oddly, protect Emily?
  • Explore other female figures in the story (even minor ones) as a contrast.

3. The Use of Symbolism in “A Rose for Emily”

  • Rich with symbolism: The story is layered with meaningful symbols.
  • Allows for close analysis: Focusing on specific symbols can enhance your exploration of the key themes.
  • Look beyond obvious symbols to less-discussed ones (hair, dust, etc.).
  • How do the symbols interact or contradict each other?

4. The Narrative Structure of “A Rose for Emily”

  • Unique aspect of the story: Faulkner’s structure is a key element of its impact.
  • Connects form to meaning: Analyzing how the narrative is structured helps reveal deeper layers of meaning.
  • How does the fragmented timeline influence our understanding of Emily?
  • What effect does the collective narrator (“we”) have?

5. The Role of Death in “A Rose for Emily”

  • Powerful motif: Death is ever-present in this story.
  • Explores multiple facets: This topic could focus on literal deaths, metaphorical deaths (of the Old South), or Emily’s relationship to mortality.
  • How does Emily’s connection to death differ from the townspeople’s?
  • Does death represent an escape for Emily, or something else?

Short Question-Answer “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

Literary works similar to “a rose for emily” by william faulkner.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman:

  • Shared Themes: Both stories explore the psychological deterioration of women due to isolation and confinement. The protagonists descend into fragmented mental states as a result of their restricted circumstances.
  • Stylistic Similarities: Gilman and Faulkner employ first-person narration that grows increasingly unreliable, offering the reader a distorted view of events that mirrors the character’s fracturing psyche.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe:

  • Shared Themes: The decaying mansions in both stories serve as stark symbols of isolation, psychological decline, and the crumbling of old legacies. The themes of death and decay pervade both narratives.
  • Stylistic Similarities: Poe and Faulkner are renowned Southern Gothic authors, sharing a talent for creating a haunting atmosphere, exploring macabre settings, and incorporating elements of the supernatural.

“ A Good Man Is Hard to Find ” by Flannery O’Connor:

  • Shared Themes: Both O’Connor and Faulkner expose the darker aspects of the South, questioning notions of morality and human nature. Their characters—The Misfit and Emily Grierson—offer enigmatic psychological profiles, inviting speculation about their hidden motives.
  • Stylistic Similarities: Both writers portray grotesque scenarios with an air of detachment, forcing the reader to confront unsettling moral implications.

“ The Lottery ” by Shirley Jackson:

  • Shared Themes: Both stories challenge the idealization of small-town life, revealing the horrors that can lie beneath the surface of tradition and conformity.
  • Stylistic Similarities: Jackson and Faulkner build suspense with matter-of-fact prose that contrasts with the disturbing events, culminating in chilling twists.

“Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson:

  • Shared Themes: This interconnected collection of short stories explores the complexities of small-town life, mirroring Faulkner’s focus on themes of loneliness, isolation, and the universal desire for connection.
  • Stylistic Similarities: Both authors use fragmented structures and multiple perspectives to construct complex portrayals of their characters and the communities they inhabit.

Suggested Readings: “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

Scholarly Articles

  • Bloom, Harold. “Introduction.” Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations: A Rose for Emily, New Edition, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House Publishers, 2008, pp. 1–9.
  • Justus, James H. “The Narrator in ‘A Rose for Emily.'” Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 1, no. 3, 1971, pp. 195-209. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30225170.
  • Polk, Noel. “The Narrative Strategy of ‘A Rose for Emily.'” Modern Language Studies, vol. 13, no. 4, 1983, pp. 3-11. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3194650

Books of Literary Criticism

  • Brooks, Cleanth. William Faulkner: Toward Yoknapatawpha and Beyond. Yale University Press, 1978.
  • Millgate, Michael. The Achievement of William Faulkner. Random House, 1963.
  • Tuck, Dorothy. Faulkner’s Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, 1980.
  • SparkNotes: A Rose for Emily. SparkNotes Editors. 2002. https://www.sparknotes.com/short-stories/a-rose-for-emily/
  • CliffsNotes: A Rose for Emily. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/f/faulkners-short-stories/summary-and-analysis-a-rose-for-emily/section-i
  • The William Faulkner Project https://english.olemiss.edu/faulkner-in-america-kathryn-mckee/

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The South is Wilting | An analysis on A Rose for Emily

In 1860 the American South seceded from the Union to preserve their Southern way of life this consequently caused the American Civil War. After years of fighting, the South lost the Civil War and fell into the Reconstruction era lasting from the mid to late 1800s, stripping the South of everything but their proud Southern heritage. In William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” he uses his text as a metaphor for the South’s struggle to abandon their traditions for modernity during the Reconstruction era through the life of Miss Emily Grierson. Using themes of control, isolation, and attachment, Faulkner draws from his old Southern roots to illuminate the turmoil the South faced as they tried to prolong their way of life when everything else was out of their control. In the clash between modernity and traditions, Emily’s traditional neighbors control her attempts to evolve into a modern woman turning her private life into the public. The outside forces controlling Emily’s life ultimately push her to insanity and death as she also tries to preserve her way of life through one of the only things she can control: isolation.

Similar to the South during the Reconstruction era, Emily’s way of life is continually stripped away by outside forces until she decides to resist and control her own life. After the horrors of the Civil War, the federal government imposes reconstruction to rebuild the South and modernize its regressive traditions. At the beginning of reconstruction, the old generation of Southerners resisted modernization and clung to their traditions. However, as the era progressed, a new generation of Southerners took control of the modernization and adapted the region to create a New South and expand on their traditions. Being the last of a long line of Southern aristocrats, Miss Emily represents the end of the old generation and is a relic of her time. Similar to Miss Emily, the author descended from a long line of southern aristocrats and used his upbringing in Reconstruction-era Mississippi for the story. Faulkner’s background helps him draw parallels to the townspeople stopping Emily from modernizing to the South, stopping reconstruction from completely modernizing their home.

Due to her family’s high status, Emily is born into the life of a southern belle, which is a well-off woman who is confined to oppressive gender roles, and her value is based on her beauty and femininity. Under gender roles, southern belle’s are controlled by the men in their life and the critical eye of other high society women whose judgments of each other work to control their reputation and how the rest sees them of society. After the death of EMily’s father, the belle abandons gentry for a reconstructionist life like the new generation of Southerners. With her newfound freedom, Emily begins to evolve into a modern woman, and starts with finding a suitor that she approves of. Although her father was gone there were still people who wanted to keep Emily from evolving. Without knowing anything about her life, Emily’s generation or the old generation of Southerners continually works to control Emily’s personal life. Employing the help of the local priest and Emily’s distinct cousins in Alabama, the ladies of the town work hard to keep Emily in line and maintain the image of an idyllic Southern town.

When the ladies of the town notice how out of character Emily is, they work to stop her from ruining her status of being a “disgrace to the town” (Faulkner 1072) by modernizing and marrying a Yankee. These women want to stop Emily from being “a bad example to the young people” (Faulkner 1072) by giving them the idea to modernize instead of conforming to Jefferson’s traditional agenda. After the Civil War, this old generation of Southern ladies never returned to their way of life before reconstruction. However, groups such as the Daughters of the Confederacy (Hunter 1) used the next generation of Southerners to keep the fantasy of Antebellum South alive. These groups funded Confederate memorial statues, created museums, and educated their children with their skewed views. By controlling modern figures such as Emily, the old generation was able to shield the new generation of Southerners from reconstructionist ideas and created policies that fought modernization. Even though Emily resisted being controlled by her generation and married the Northerner, it came at a price. Emily lives out the rest of her life in isolation, serving a symbolic life sentence for not conforming to Southern society’s norms. Ultimately, by extracting herself from society, Emily loses all control over how the townspeople of Jefferson, Mississippi, view her, leaving herself vulnerable to the harsh judgments chronicled throughout the story.

Spending her early years isolated away from everyone in the town of Jefferson, Mississippi but her father no one really knows anything about Emily or her life, resulting in the misjudgements of the local townspeople. As Emily got older, she began to emerge into society, but quickly went back to isolation when she was criticized for not conforming with others. When Emily felt that she had lost almost all control over her life to the outside world, she took charge over one of the last aspects of her life where no one would control her. Lacking the ability to evolve without the critical eye of her generation, Emily isolates herself inside her home, allowing herself to be the only one to control her life instead of the outside world. Now free from the outside world, Emily finally has control to make her own choices within isolation but now in control she chooses not to control her life. Instead allowing everything around her to die, including the modern woman inside her which marks the end of her life leaving her with nothing to do but grow old in solitude. Emily’s grand home which used to be the model of classic Southern architecture and a representation of the past that the old generation longs for, turned into “an eyesore among eyesores,” (Faulkner 1066) consumed with the smell of Emily’s rotting husband. In her isolation, Emily’s life and everything around her begins to rot as the past is revealed to be not as great as it seems.

Clinging to a life they barely know; the old generation is attached to the past throughout the story. Retelling their idea of the lost cause of the Confederacy as if it were good old days, across the South to fight modernization. The townspeople of Jefferson, Mississippi work within their best interests to bring back the past and raise the next generation to live in a time centuries before them. Interested in the life of a woman they do not know; the old generation involves themselves in the personal life of Miss Emily Grierson to stop her from modernizing. Both groups attached to their own ideas, causing conflict which ends with both sticking to their own ideas. Both tightly clinging to their ideals without any space for adaptation, leads to severe consequences such as insanity by having no allies or obsession of pushing one’s agenda and pushing others to the side. The attachment of traditions led to the South’s struggle with Reconstruction and ultimate destruction of other people through hurtful policies such as Jim Crow. Evolution is needed to loosen the grip of one idea for future advancement that can occur, but due to the importance of preservation the South was isolated from the rest of America’s advancements. Making their situation similar to Emily’s as those in the South try to modernize while the townspeople represent the rest of the South who work to prevent the success of Reconstruction. Ultimately choosing to kill the idea of ever advancing without possibility of changing and symbolically rotting into the ugliness of the Jim Crow era.

Narrated by those who knew Miss Emily the least, the townspeople of Jefferson, Mississippi, recall their life through their critical lenses and speculation. As a product of her generation, Emily tries to evolve and break the oppressed Southern Belles’ trend, defined by superficial qualities. Emily’s story is a metaphor for the South’s constant battle due to the Reconstruction-era as they protected their traditions and defeated modernizing forces. Faulkner places all the worst aspects of reconstructionist south in Emily’s character. Highlighting the individuals who controlled the South’s narrative to preserve their traditions alongside their agenda, those who shut themselves into isolation to avoid judgments for modernizing, and the region’s attachment to a distant memory of Antebellum South. Ultimately the Reconstruction era engaged the South in another Civil War, as the majority fought off modernization and the minority faced a silent battle to any hope of a reformed South. With a region fighting against itself, it is easy to understand why Faulkner wrote “A Rose for Emily,” as an “an irrevocable tragedy” (Jelliffe 1) with citizens fighting against the advancement of their home to preserve their comfortable life. There is nothing you can do to stop this tragedy but pity and offer a rose to the neglected South out of pity of what the region could be instead of how it grew to be. 

Works Cited

A Rose for Emily. Directed by Lyndon Cubbuck. Performances by Anjelica Husto, John Randolph and John Carradine. Chubbuck Production Company, 1983.

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” McDougal Littell Literature: American Literature . Ed. Applebee et al. 6th ed. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2008. 1064-1077.

Gone with the Wind. Directed by Victor Fleming. Performances by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, Selznick International Pictures, 1939.

Google Images for free and fair use.

Hunter, Alex. “Why ‘A Rose for Emily’ is a representation of Reconstruction South.” Medium. 2018. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@alexhunter365/why-a-rose-for-emily-is-a-representation-of-reconstruction-south-46c4b31978c8

Jelliffe, Robert. “Faulkner at Nagano.” Tokyo: Kenkyusha Ltd., 1956. Retrived from http://admin.faulkner.edu/admin/websites/cwarmack/William%20Faulkner%20speaks%20on.pdf

Oneclick. “Blooming Rose Flower || Time-Lapse Movie.” Youtube. 2018. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0TcPkdVsK8

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A Rose for Emily: Foreshadowing Analysis

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Foreshadowing in the Story

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a rose for emily literary analysis essay

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A Rose For Emily Analysis Essay: Faulkner’s Masterpiece

“A Rose for Emily” is a brief masterpiece created by famous stateside writer, William Faulkner . Its first publication occurred in the beginning of the 1930s. The scene was laid in the author’s imaginary county, in a small town. This is the first Faulkner’s literary work that deserved the publication in famous American magazine. “A Rose for Emily” is written in famous genre of that period (Southern Gothic), which main characteristics are dark images and violence. If you are searching for a Rose for Emily analysis essay and other works of high quality, feel free to contact custom essay writing service.

The story line starts with a short message about the burial of Emily Grierson, unmarried woman from the South, followed by the narrator's memories of old-fashioned and increasingly frantic Emily’s behavior all the while. Emily came of a class of pre-war southern aristocrats; when the war between the North and the South had run its course, a lot of difficulties appeared for Griersons. Emily’s family continued their life as if nothing had changed. Neither she nor her parent would have approved Emily’s marriage with a man of lower social status than they had. When Emily was about thirty, her father breathed last gasp. She could not believe that he had gone for about three days; the society wrote off this behavior in the expression of grief. Our a Rose for Emily essay as well as an essay on Barack Obama are provided by our professional writers who are striving to meet all your requirements.

Having resigned that the father never came back, Grierson revived a little. She got acquainted with Homer, a worker from the North who arrived in the burgh as a master builder for the construction of pavements. This relationship has surprised the town’s society: such a marriage would be far from the usual standards of the Griersons; besides, Homer considered himself "a confirmed bachelor." Citizens appealed to Emily’s cousins ​​from Alabama; they were her immediate family, but southern aristocrats did not get along with them. The cousins ​​responded to the letter and came to Jefferson, but soon they gained much worse reputation than Emily possessed. At the same time, Emily had bought arsenic at the pharmacy; she refused to explain why she needed it, and neighbors came to the conclusion that she was going to be poisoned. Nevertheless, their intercourse with Homer seemed to receive the new round of development, and the town began to talk about the upcoming wedding. Our professionals are engaged in providing you with Rose for Emily essays of the best quality; in addition, you can check our agricultural revolution essays in order to receive some new additional facts: https://smartwriters.org/blog/agricultural-revolution-essays-the-progress-of-humanity

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Homer left the town for some time, presumably to afford Emily the opportunity to polish off the cousins, and returned a few days after their departure. A neighbor noticed as he came at sunset to the Grierson’s house; however, nobody ever saw him after that event.

Despite the changes in the social standing, Emily continued to behave as arrogant as before her daddy went aloft. She had such reputation that the town council had found it impossible to inform her about the unpleasant odor emanating from her house. Instead, the men, when it was dark, scattered some whitewash around the building, and after a while, the smell disappeared. If you are fond of literature, do not lose an opportunity to consult our essay on Othello in order to expand horizons of your background knowledge.

The Chief Magistrate, acting as a philanthropist, freed her from taxes, although he had to invent a story that so he paid her father's duty to the town, so as not to hurt the pride of Emily. Some years after, when the power was passed to the next executives, Emily insisted on the informal agreement, determinately sending back all the tax rolls. If you still do not know about our range of services , the information is available for you 24/7.

Emily became a recluse; she never got away and rarely accepted someone at home; all purchases were made for her by a black servant. The citizens began to perceive her as "an inherited obligation", total debt and concern.

The funeral became a significant event in the town; everyone was curious to look inside Emily’s house that had not been visited for many years. After the ceremony, which was attended by the whole town, a couple of citizens went into the house. The bedroom door was locked; it was knocked out in order to witness what was hidden behind it for many years. Inside, in addition to items purchased for Emily's wedding, they found the decomposed body of Homer Barron lying on the kip; on the next pillow, there was the imprint of a head as well as a strand of Emily’s gray hair. Literature is a very interesting sphere of art, so if you are looking for some new information, feel free to check our Aldous Huxley essay: https://smartwriters.org/blog/aldous-huxley-essays-an-outstanding-writer

In conclusion, we would like to say that this story is very specific. It is full of dark images that are typical of Southern literature. If you are interested in psychology, you will find some interesting ideas to think over. Regardless of horrible events contained in the story, readers usually highly appreciate this literary masterpiece. Dear readers, if you still do not know the details about our services provided by experienced professionals, do not forget to visit our about us section . What is your attitude to Emily? How can you explain her behavior? We are sure that you have something to tell us about, so welcome to our community. Feel free to share your thoughts with us, leave your comments and let us develop together. We are waiting for your responses. Join us!

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Literary Analysis on “A Rose For Emily”

Literary Analysis on “A Rose For Emily”

The story “A Rose for Emily” is a short but rich piece of writing. The characters play a vital role in unraveling the story. Although we get to know many outsiders, it is not until the end that we truly discover the protagonist’s dark secrets. The plot revolves around the town’s curiosity about a woman who has always been secretive and introverted, living her whole life in a closed, musty house. The story is narrated from a first person plural perspective, offering an objective point of view. The narrator has observed the events as an onlooker and potential character, allowing readers to form their own conclusions and opinions about the characters without direct dialogue from their thoughts.

The small town setting is crucial in connecting all the other aspects of the story as it embodies a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone. The inhabitants are deeply interested in each other’s affairs, prompting further speculation and gossip in their quest to uncover significant stories. These various elements give rise to multiple symbolic elements within the narrative, such as the protagonist’s home. The house, which has historically represented wealth and prosperity for numerous generations, undergoes a similar decline as the aging woman, reflecting the notion that even the privileged are not immune to the passage of time. Ultimately, both social status and family history deteriorate with the inevitable effects of aging.

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The author of this text highlights the significance of character in storytelling, particularly emphasizing its importance in this specific story. The main focus of the story is Emily, a character who remains relatively unchanged throughout the narrative, but whose presence has a profound influence on those around her. While the reader does not acquire a personal understanding of Emily, this deliberate distance between reader and character aligns with Faulkner’s intention. The unfamiliarity experienced by both reader and townspeople fuels their curiosity about Emily’s life, gradually developing her character without direct explanation. Initially, I speculated that Emily’s quiet and introverted nature could be attributed to her father’s overprotective behavior towards men. However, an alternative literary analysis suggests that Emily’s behavior might stem from a perception of superiority and disregard for financial responsibilities.

The town frequently brings up Emily’s failure to pay taxes, which highlights her reliance on male guidance and portrays her as selfish and unwilling to contribute to the town’s well-being. This lack of knowledge about Emily leads to various assumptions from both the readers and the townspeople, ranging from her shy nature due to an overbearing father to her being an arrogant woman. The only concrete description of Emily’s character we receive is her physical appearance as she ages. She initially appears as a slender figure dressed in white and later, when the Board of Aldermen visit her, she is described as a small, fat woman wearing black with a thin gold chain hanging from her waist and disappearing into her belt. She leans on an ebony crane adorned with a tarnished gold head.

The description of Emily’s physical appearance emphasizes her small and spare skeleton, which causes her to appear obese compared to others. She has a bloated, pale complexion, as if she has been submerged in stagnant water for a long time (56). This vivid depiction allows readers to visualize Emily and understand her cold attitude towards men, as she does not invite them to sit (56). Whether her guarded nature stems from a protective father or her inherited social status, Emily consistently keeps everyone out of her metaphorical house of secrets.

In many stories, authors often depict characters like Miss Emily in ways that reveal an internal struggle through inner dialogue. However, in this particular piece, Miss Emily’s disdain for common conversation lacks any inner dialogue, leaving readers to form their own interpretations of her behavior. The enigmatic nature of Miss Emily’s character is evident to both the other characters in the story and the reader. Throughout the narrative, there is no moment where her true self or intentions are revealed. Even until the end of the story, it remains unclear why her presumed fiancé is found in bed with a skeletal grin.

One of the key factors in shaping Emily’s controversial character is the plot. The plot in this story is somewhat disjointed, as the timeline is not presented in a chronological order, making it challenging to identify the initial conflict, climax, and resolution. Even after reading the concluding sentence, it remains difficult to ascertain the resolution. It is plausible that Faulkner intended for the resolution to be the townsfolk finally discovering Emily’s long-kept secrets within her home. Alternatively, it could be seen as the resolution of all the puzzle pieces coming together to reveal the enigma surrounding Emily herself.

The story begins with the discussion of a funeral for Emily Grierson. Everyone in town attended the funeral not because she was a likeable woman, but because she was a woman known only through speculation, gossip, and her “hereditary obligation” (55) to be exempt from taxes. Men paid their respects for a “fallen monument” (55) while women came out of “curiosity” (55). Faulkner uses this to lay the foundation for the story’s plot. Despite being highly regarded due to her hereditary roots, Emily is seen as an obligation and somewhat of a burden as the responsibility to take care of her is passed down through generations. She used to live on one of the nicest streets in Jefferson, but now it is considered one of the worst because it has aged and decayed along with Miss Emily (Sem, Web). The plot of the story revolves around a woman who has become a victim of aging and time, and the town that has unwillingly inherited the task of preserving her legacy.

According to Sem and Web, Miss Emily used to live on one of the nicest streets in Jefferson, but it is now regarded as one of the worst. This deterioration parallels the aging and decay of Miss Emily herself. The main issue in the story is the unpaid town taxes, which stem from a belief that Miss Emily’s father had lent money to the town. Despite the uncertainty surrounding this tale, Miss Emily relied on Colonel Sartoris’ promise that she would not have to pay taxes for her traditional home. However, as new, younger homeowners gain authority, the conflict over taxes becomes more acute. Despite several attempts to collect taxes, Miss Emily manages to defeat them, just as she had defeated their fathers thirty years earlier in a dispute about a foul odor.

This section is crucial because it highlights a longstanding issue with Emily, whether it be related to her finances or a foul smell. Section II focuses on the foul odor, which becomes another conflict in the story. Many years ago, a repugnant smell emanated from Emily’s house, causing numerous complaints from neighbors. The extent of their frustration was such that a group of men covertly invaded her yard during the night to investigate the source of the stench, ultimately resorting to spreading lime to cover it up and rid the area of the offensive odor. Clearly, Emily is perceived as a burden by the townspeople who have encountered unresolved complaints and unpleasant smells while enduring her refusal to pay taxes. The climax of the narrative is somewhat elusive, but can arguably be identified when Emily meets Homer.

After her father’s death, Emily becomes more withdrawn than she was before. The townspeople are both confused and outraged by her relationship with Homer, as they believe someone of her social status should not be involved with him. Gossip spreads rapidly, furthering the public scandal as Emily tries to assert herself. Though it appears that Emily remains unaffected by the rumors and maintains her dignity, the men and women secretly critique her, damaging her reputation with their whispered comments.

Shortly after the affair has publicly begun, Emily purchases rat poison, specifically a bottle with a skull and bones labeled “For Rats” (59). This detail is significant to the plot as it may foreshadow future events and also symbolize Emily’s betrayal of her social standing by being involved with a “foreman” (58). While it is speculated that Emily might commit suicide, this assumption is far from the reality.

The conclusion of the story is not entirely clear. The story jumps between past and present, lacking a clear chronological order for the past events, making it difficult to consider the conclusion as part of the opening paragraph. However, according to Faulkner, the opening paragraph sets the stage for the inevitable conclusion: the rotting corpse in the bedroom. The constant curiosity throughout the story fuels the events that eventually lead to the entire town gathering at Emily’s house to pay their respects. Before Emily’s body is even laid to rest, the neighbors and visitors eagerly search her house for a room that has been unseen for forty years. The description of their entry into the room foreshadows the shocking conclusion: “The violence of breaking down the door seemed to fill this room with pervading dust.” The room had remained untouched, preserving both its tomb-like state and the “fleshless grin” on Homer’s skeletal remains.

The previous 40 years have led up to a sudden realization of events – the rat poison, the foul odor, and Homer’s sudden disappearance. Emily, motivated either by a desire to maintain her dream of a husband and a normal life or by her own self-despair for choosing a man disapproved by the town, has killed him. The presence of a single strand of gray hair on the pillow next to him only supports the belief that she ended his life either to keep him close or to remove him from her life permanently. Even after her death, Emily’s actions and motives continue to perplex and intrigue the townspeople, causing ongoing questions and speculation. She will forever remain an enigma, regardless of whether she is liked or not; she is viewed as a complete unknown.

The text highlights the idea that stories can present various perspectives and points of view. This is particularly pronounced when multiple characters are involved, as their internal dialogue and reactions to events can express diverse views. In the specific story being discussed, the narrator’s point of view is in the first person, specifically using the plural form of “we”. This choice of narration creates a sense of a collective and unified opinion about Emily. It is not clear how the narrator is connected to Emily or whether they have personal experience with her. The narration, however, focuses less on personal opinions and more on objectively describing Emily’s actions and how others react to her. As Michaela I explains, Faulkner employs this narrative technique to highlight the community’s decision to marginalize certain individuals.

The story’s portrayal of Emily’s character aims to isolate her and highlight her perceived strangeness in the town. The point of view expressed by one of the town’s residents leaves no doubt about the town’s opinion of her. Faulkner’s use of “we” as the narrator allows for a unanimous perspective on Emily, eliminating any potential for misjudgment.

The first section of the story establishes that the town sees Emily as a responsibility and obligation passed down through generations. This creates a divide between the town and Emily. Faulkner further develops this by showing how the town wants to help Emily in her troubled life and sympathize with her during difficult times, but also criticizes her. The town questions and criticizes Emily’s motives, actions, and reactions throughout various events. When her father dies, opinions form that are both sympathetic and harsh. While some people feel relieved and happy that Emily, a woman with high social status, has become more relatable by experiencing loss, others quickly change their perspective when they feel obligated to offer condolences and assistance due to moral and traditional values, rather than genuine empathy or friendship.

The story portrays Faulkner’s attempt to depict the town’s struggle with accepting Emily. However, they revert to judgmental ways when she refuses to conform or integrate herself into the community. The town finds it difficult to see past her isolation and instead draws conclusions about her mysterious lifestyle based solely on gossip and speculation. When Emily meets Homer, a laborer, initially the townspeople view it as a positive development. However, this quickly turns into mockery due to her lower social status. Older individuals believe that even grief should not cause a lady to forget her social responsibilities. They view Emily’s behavior as unacceptable for someone of her high status and worry not only about her but also about upholding tradition.

The point of view in the story effectively shows that Emily was unconventional and non-traditional. She did not follow the social norms of the town, which caused a divide between her life and the life of the townspeople. This divide increased her isolation, both due to the town’s alienation and her own choice to seclude herself.

The strongest portrayal of her alienation and lonely life was seen towards the end of the book. After enduring years of being ostracized by the town and engaging in secretive behavior, she met her end in solitude. “And so she died. Falling ill in a house filled with dust and shadows, with only an elderly Negro man attending to her. We were unaware of her illness; we had long ago given up… she passed away in one of the downstairs rooms, resting on a heavy walnut bed adorned with a yellow and moldy pillow, aged and deprived of sunlight.” This excerpt paints a disturbing image for multiple reasons. The depiction of Emily dying alone in a dusty and dim house perfectly encapsulates how her life was lived in this town. Perceived as peculiar and abnormal, any attempt to make her conform was ultimately abandoned as her resistance grew stronger. The town remained oblivious to Emily’s existence during her lifetime, and this passage confirms that they were not even aware of her demise.

The entire book portrays a town where the residents are interconnected and united in their efforts to criticize and invade the life of a miserable woman who simply wishes to be left in solitude. Regardless of her efforts and choices, she is constantly questioned and rejected, ultimately being condemned to live a solitary and deteriorating existence in a vast, empty house. Throughout her entire life, she has been nothing but a burden to the town.

“A Rose for Emily” is unique among literary works in that it primarily takes place in one setting: Emily’s home. This setting serves as both a physical and metaphoric representation, as it holds secrets and provides shelter for Emily from the townspeople. The house was once a symbol of wealth and prosperity, adorned with cupolas, spires, and scrolled balconies. It was situated on one of the most desirable streets in town. But over time, the house suffered from the changes in the economy, while the surrounding houses were torn down. Despite this, Emily’s house remained standing, standing out as an “eyesore” among gas stations and cotton wagons. Faulkner portrays the house as awkward and separate from the rest of the town.

The house in “A Rose for Emily” is compared to Emily herself, as both are set apart from society and resist change. The house is seen as a fallen legacy, reflecting the decline of the town of Jefferson after the Civil War. Just as the Grierson family was once high class, the town was once flourishing but has now deteriorated. The house symbolizes time, age, and resistance to change in a modernizing society. Similarly, Emily has aged and lost her beauty, but she was once considered desirable and of high social standing.

The description of Emily is symbolic of the house itself. The house, once admired for its grandeur and high position among the wealthiest families on the street, has become worn down and uninviting. Like the house, Emily is seen as a burden inherited by the town. Just as the house cannot be demolished, Emily cannot be swayed from her stubbornness. The house represents a refusal to conform in a changing world, mirroring Emily’s fear of leaving the familiar and venturing into the unknown. After her father’s death, Emily denies his passing and refuses to accept the change forced upon her. Despite numerous attempts to make her accept his death, she remains in denial for days. To escape this change, Emily shuts herself away in her home – the only constant in her life.

Despite the ever-changing world around her, Emily found solace in a familiar place where she could remain unchanged and accepted. Faulkner’s story does not explicitly address Emily’s struggle with accepting change, but her physical appearance throughout the narrative suggests that she has indeed changed over time, whether willingly or due to aging. By emphasizing her constant physical transformation, the author underscores the inevitability of change, despite Emily’s reluctance to embrace it. The house serves as a symbol of stability in her life, allowing her to exert control by keeping everything inside it consistent amid external changes. When Homer enters her life, he brings with him the promise of new beginnings and positive change. However, unbeknownst to the reader, Emily once again resists change. Her insistence on preserving the things she loves and her fear of losing loved ones drive her to purchase Arsenic.

The purchase of “Rat Poison” by the woman represents her resistance to change and fear of losing loved ones. She anticipated that Homer would bring about significant changes in her life and expected numerous unknown challenges that might make him reconsider staying with her. To ensure his unwavering loyalty out of her own fear, she resorts to poisoning him. The story’s conclusion further reinforces this fear of change when Homer is discovered in the bedroom, positioned “once lain in the attitude of an embrace,” having died while holding Emily. This body position symbolizes permanence and unchangingness, despite decay, as he is “the long sleep that outlasts love” and has been cuckolded by a force that conquers even the grimace of love, guaranteeing that he remains unchanged and constantly at Emily’s side.

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  5. A Rose for Emily: Literary Analysis Essay

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    Analysis. Last Updated September 5, 2023. "A Rose for Emily" is a classic and often anthologized short story by William Faulkner. It was written in 1930 but is set many decades earlier, in the ...

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    Summary of "A Rose For Emily". Section 1. An unnamed narrator, who seems to be speaking on behalf of the group, tells us that when Miss Emily Grierson died, the whole town attended her funeral. The men felt obligated, while the women were curious about her house, which no one save a servant had seen in years.

  9. A Rose for Emily: Study Guide

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