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“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner Essay

“A Rose for Emily” is a tragic story about a woman named Emily Grierson who, for all her life has been controlled by her father. Once her father dies, Emily does not know, nor understand how to live her own life. At first she denies that her father dies; then after three days, with much pressuring from the locals and the doctors, she admits her father’s death and lets the townspeople bury him. Much of the town is wondering what to expect to happen to Emily. Emily becomes a recluse and sends her manservant, Tobe, who has served the family for generations, out to the market to do the shopping for her. One day, she met a Yankee day laborer named Homer Barron.

Homer and Emily began seeing each other and eventually seemed to get serious about their relationship. Emily began to fall in love with Homer, but Homer did not have the same feelings for her. One day, Homer disappeared and was never seen nor heard from again. Many years passed and Emily died. Her cousins were curious and went to her home to see where she had lived her life. Upon their arrival, they find a corpse lying on a bed in a mysterious locked room upstairs. On the bed, next to the corpse there was a “long strand of iron-gray hair” (36).

In “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner tells a story about a young woman who is overly-influenced and controlled by her father. Her father has made all the decisions for her and he chose whom she could and could not be courted by. After her father died, it took Emily three days to finally allow the townspeople to give her father a proper burial, because of her denial that her father had indeed, died. Emily had relied so heavily on her father for all of her life; she did not know what to do, or how to live. After her father’s death, Emily stays in her house where she felt safe, and does not go out into the outside world, regardless of what had happened and changed. As everything changed in the outside world, Emily still lived with the past. For example, when the new city authorities approach Miss. Emily about her taxes, she explains “See Col. Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson” (31) – even though Col. Sartoris had been dead for ten years.

Emily Grierson is described by Faulkner as a short, fat, and mysterious woman who does not accept change. A good example of Emily Grierson refusing any sort of change is when the town wanted to attach numbers on her house and a mailbox for mail service; Emily Grierson refused to conform to the new ideals. When Emily met a man named Homer Barron, the townspeople are surprised to see this; “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer” (33). Miss Emily represents someone who lives in the South and could not accept the real thing that the North takes over the South after the Civil War. “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 things, spinning with slow motes in the single sun ray”(30) is an example of old things. Emily’s house with all the old things represents the Old south, which has to face a new modern generation.

The idea behind this story is about Emily’s inability to conform to the present and leave the past. Emily had been dominated by her father her whole life, because of this, when her father finally passed away, Emily cannot face the truth about her father’s death, or her loneliness. When Emily meets Homer Barron, she felt that she once again had balance and security in her life. She feared that Homer may also leave her one-day and she would be alone again. This is the reason that Emily poisons Homer Barron. It is not until the death of Emily Grierson that we find the truth about the death of Homer Barron and how deep Emily Grierson’s insecurity truly is.

“A Rose for Emily” is a tragic story that tells the tale of a lonely and isolated woman. The tone, extremely morbid and dark, was set at the beginning. He began the story by telling us the ending. We already know that Emily Grierson has died. He then begins to draw a dynamic picture of how Emily had lived; “…only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores” (29). The tone that Faulkner starts off with the description of Emily Grierson’s residence is a very dramatic and powerful use of description. An outsider looking in to Emily Grierson’s livelihood narrates “A Rose for Emily” in the third person. This is a very effective way for Faulkner to write this story. By doing this, we are not led into the thoughts of Emily, but more importantly, we know how Emily Grierson is thought of by the locals. Faulkner utilized many symbols in this short story.

He used the fact that Emily is stuck in the past, the time when her father was still alive, and the new alderman and townsfolk. These are symbols of the battle that Emily is experiencing between the old south (past) and the new south (present). At the end of the story, it is shown what William Faulkner meant by a rose, in his title “A Rose for Emily”. The “rose” is all of her dust-covered treasures, especially those of her wedding that she wanted; “…this room decked and furnished as for a bridal:upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man’s toilet things backed with the tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured”(36).

William Faulkner depicts a very morbid and darktheme. The theme itself fits entirely onto his character, Emily Grierson. I believe Faulkner did a very good job in not only writing this story with a strong theme, but he did it in such a way, in every aspect one could see the theme throughout his short story. I think the vivid drawings of how Emily once lived and who she became is extremely important in “A Rose for Emily”.

Works Cited

Kennedy, X.J and Dana Giolia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2005.

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