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A Rose for Emily Essay

The short story begins by telling the end of it; the story begins with the funeral of the aristocratic Miss Emily Grierson during the time period of the civil war. The funeral turnout so big, the whole town of Jefferson attended. The town felt responsible for Miss Emily because they felt that she was a “tradition, a duty and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (287). “The men of the town respected Miss Grierson and viewed her as a fallen monument” (287), whereas the women of the town haven’t been in the house for years and was viewed by the narrator to have attended the funeral just to get a peek of the inside of Emily’s home to see how she lived.

The house sits on a street that was once the town’s most prestigious areas. With all the other homes replaced with garages and cotton gins Miss Grierson’s house was the last one standing. The house was described as “a big, squarrish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street” (287). Now, time has taken toll, and neglect of the maintenance has distorted its once beautiful structure. The main conflict in the story was Emily facing reality, she didn’t know how to let go of her past “I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves” (288). Agitated by her tactics, the town is getting tired of taking care of her, “So the next day, “She will kill herself”; and we said it would be the best thing” (291). The townspeople think she is stuck up and arrogant because she thinks that everything revolves around her. Isolation from the society caused her to become depressed, unhappy and crazy, leading up to her destroying Homer.

Emily was a heavy set woman “She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water and of that pallid hue” (288). She was an old, secretive woman, who was devastated and alone in a growing society, forcing her to stay in her role. Emily sunk into a deep mental depression and limited others to see her true identity by remaining hidden, “When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray” (292). She lived most of her life in isolation and was intimidated by her controlling father. When Miss Emily was alive, the townspeople considered her as a financial obligation because she never paid taxes. She hadn’t paid in years, and she wasn’t forced to pay “See Colonel Sartoris, I have no taxes in Jefferson” (288).

Her nonpayment dated back to 1894 when the mayor of the town, Mayor Colonel Sartoris, told the story that her father loaned the town money and as payment back to her father they allowed her not to pay taxes. Her father died and left Miss Emily with no money to live off of and the inheritance of a decaying house. As time passed and generations came and went, the arrangement became a discontent with the people so they made many attempts to collect the long time debt but as adamant as they were, so was Emily. She would not respond to their efforts. Finally after numerous failed notifications, the town’s board decided to make a trip to her house hoping to get an agreement to satisfy the debt. Emily hadn’t had visitors in years, but greeted by her old house servant, the board was permitted to enter into the damp stenched home and waited in the room until Miss Grierson was summoned.

When Emily enters; small, round and dressed in black, not nearly as appealing as she was once described, the visitors affirmed their purpose. They requested compensation for her taxes, but Emily’s harsh and bold demanded that she didn’t have taxes and instructed Tobe, her house servant, to escort them out, “I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!” The Negro appeared. “Show these gentlemen out.” (288). Emily always wanted a home where she can feel loved and free in, but it didn’t turn out that way as the complaints poured in from neighbors and townspeople about a smell lingering around the home and demanded the new mayor to take action. Judge Stevens, old in his years, didn’t know what he could do to fix the problem.

He thought the smell might have been a dead rodent that the caretaker must have killed in the yard, “It’s probably just a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard” (289). To quiet down the complaints, he said he would send the message to Ms. Emily’s servant. As more complaints came in and the problem persisted, a group of men decided to take matters into their own hands and made a visit to Miss Emily’s house, “They broke open the cellular door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the out buildings” (289). After some time, the smell went away.

During her younger years, people felt bad for Miss Emily. Her great-aunt old lady Wyatt had gone mad and her father sheltered her so much that he didn’t allow her too far from his sight. He drove everyone away. He felt that there was no young man good enough for his Emily, so she never married and didn’t have any friends. The Griersons believed they were a higher class than most. Emily didn’t have a relationship with her family in Alabama because her father had a fallen out with them over Aunt Wyatt’s property. When Mr. Grierson died, Emily denied he was dead and left him in the house for three days. After many failed attempts by the townspeople to persuade her to get rid of his decomposing body, she let go and buried her father. Now she was all alone and didn’t come out much. Time passed and it was a long time before anyone had seen Emily, “When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows” (290). Emily’s new look made her seem younger.

After Emily’s father’s death, the town paid a construction company to pave the sidewalks. The foreman, Homer Barron, was from up north and grew to know the townspeople. He was “a big dark, ready men, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face” (290). Homer was Emily’s secret lover, “Miss Emily and her lover Homer Barron, had been carrying on for the better part of two years” (Scherting398), whether that meant he was dead or alive. Rumors in the town said Homer would not get married, “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” (291). When Emily requested arsenic from the druggist, the town started to become curious whether she was going to kill herself or not, “I want some poison,” she said to the druggist” (290). Little did they know that it was for Homer, “Emily feels so disillusioned and desperate that she manages to poison him, feeling that in this way she can keep him forever with her” (Yang 73).

People often saw Homer and Emily together on Sunday afternoons driving in a buggy. Some of the town’s ladies weren’t too pleased with the sight. As Homer and Miss Emily spent more time together, the ladies thought it was a dishonor to the town and a terrible example to the young folks so they reached out to her family in Alabama to see if they can come and stay with her. During the cousins stay, Emily went to the store and bought jewelry, a toilet set, men’s clothing and a nightshirt. They were thought to surely be married now with Emily preparing for his stay, but while the cousins were at the house, Homer left. Soon after her relatives left Homer returned. After his last sighting entering Miss Emily’s house, Homer was never seen again as well as Miss Emily, but from time to time she would be seen by her window. People thought Miss Grierson went crazy. It was years before she would be seen again, “When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray” (292). Emily got ill and died downstairs in one of the rooms.

The funeral was held days after Miss Emily’s death. Her family and the townspeople came to make their final view. Ladies all about, men in their confederate uniforms, on the porch and in the yard, they waited after Emily was buried before they went in the room that hadn’t been visited in decades. When the door was broken down, dust filled the room. Inside, it looked like a preparation for a wedding; decorated with faded rose color curtains and lights. Across the room stood a dressing table with crystal set in row and a man’s tarnished, silver toilet set. There also rest a collar and tie. Hanging on a chair, a suit cautiously folded and accompanied by some shoes and socks. To the spectators surprise, lying amongst everything rest Homer. Underneath his nightshirt, his body was molded to fit an embrace. Imprinted on a pillow next to his decayed remains; caressed by time, laid an indentation of a head. In the crest of the indentation rest a single long, gray strand of hair from Miss Emily head.

It was not until her final day of death that the readers could fully picture Emily as being insane. Having being denied male companionship by her father, she was desperate for love. She was so crazy that she killed the man she loved and used her aristocratic position to cover up the murder. By killing Homer, she didn’t realize that she was sentencing herself to total isolation, no contact with anything or anyone from the outside world. The narrator persuaded the reader to believe that Emily killed Homer and then preserved his body in the moment of her most anticipated day. To her, she sealed her love, preventing the stroke of loneliness. Always being comforted by his touch, she laid with him until she became ill and overcome by death.

Work Cited

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on A Rose for Emily.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 14 Mar. 2013

Dliworth, Thomas. “A Romance to Kill For: Homocidal Complicity in Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily.” Studies in Short Fiction 361999 251-62. 21 Nov 2008.

Yagcioglu, Semiramis. “Language, Subjectivity and Ideology in “A Rose for Emily”.” Journal of American Studies of Turkey 2(1995) 49-59. 21 Nov 2008.

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” In The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. 2160-2166. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.


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