Love, obsession and Gossip In “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner uses the point of view of the townspeople to show their personal opinions and judgment’s of Miss Emily. He writes a story about a woman who is traumatized by the way her father has raised her and the effects of his strict and overprotective mentality. Because of her father’s death she finds it difficult to let go and live a normal life that involves social interaction. To make matters worse than her anti-social attitude, Emily is stereotyped and judged by those in her community. In light of her upbringing and the judgments of the townspeople, Emily becomes attached to anyone who shows her attention. In turn, she is very protective and insecure of herself in her ability to keep those who she cares about in her life. Emily’s father was a wealthy man who would stop at nothing to make his daughter happy, or so he thought. He was said to be so wealthy that he “had loaned money to the town” (432).
He was very strict with Miss Emily in that he would not let any males come to visit or even come near her. Faulkner illustrates this characteristic in writing, “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such” (434). The relationships and love that Emily desired were brutally taken away from her because of her father’s struggle to maintain the family status. The author illustrates this by explaining her situation, “… even with insanity in the family she wouldn’t have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized” (434). Regardless if Emily wanted to date or not, her father would not let ny of her relationships flourish. Because of her father’s attitude, Emily grew to be very sheltered, and it was no surprise to the town that she was single at the age of thirty. Her father was selfish, and his selfishness abolished all hopes of happiness for her.
She felt stuck in her father’s world with no way out. Not only did she feel alone, but she was also under extreme pressure to live up to her father’s name and maintain the families status in their town. Emily’s need to have someone in her life becomes so great that it leads her to stray from her father’s expectations. This is evident when Miss Emily begins to show interest in Homer Barron, a “Yankee” construction foreman. Emily’s actions raise a dispute of feelings among the townspeople, “…because the ladies all said, ‘Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.’ But there were still others, old people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige-without calling it noblesse oblige” (435). The difference in opinions of the townspeople suggests the generation gap and values of the different generations. The new and old generations’ values conflict because they each believe in different ideas.
The older townspeople want Emily to behave appropriately and live up to her family’s name. They are also more willing to help Emily in her endeavours because they think of her as proper and noble. The older generation of townspeople felt that her family was “a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor-…-remitted her taxes” (432). The older generation performed favors for Emily because of her family’s status and heritage. They wanted Miss Emily to fail because it would satisfy their hidden jealousies. The new generation on the other hand, is not as compassionate toward her because they are only familiar with her, not her past relatives, who were well respected and admired. The new generation was not favorable to her past situation. “When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction” (432).
The arrangement of Emily’s remitted taxes was not accepted by the new generation of town officials. Faulkner illustrates the difference in values near the beginning of the story to introduce the reader to Emily’s situation. Throughout the story, evidence proves that Emily’s every move is scrutinized by her community. For example, when the story opens, everyone in the town is at her funeral. Faulkner writes, “Our whole town went to the funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man servant-a combined gardener and cook-had seen in at least ten years”( 431). The people of the town go to Miss Emily’s funeral, not out of respect, but out of hypocrisy and curiosity. The community views her as a “fallen monument.” The men in the town attend the funeral to respect her family’s name and her father’s success while the women went solely to judge her home.
In other words, she was once looked upon highly, but through the years she became a recluse and detached herself from society. Emily’s reasons for secluding herself from society go back to when her father was alive and he was her world. After her father’s death, she has a hard time dealing with the fact that he has passed on because now she is alone. Her father kept her from finding anyone worth marrying, so now she will have to live by herself. The reader can reason Emily’s importance of her father from Faulkner’s writing, “On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father” (432). The reader can assume that the portrait was drawn by her and she is trying to hold onto the only person left in her life. The loss of her father leads Emily to pursue a relationship with the northerner, Homer Barron. Emily becomes attached to him because she is lonely and feels rejected by the town. The traditions, customs, and prejudices of the South doom their “so-called” affair to end.
Emily and him would take drives and attend church together, but according to Faulkner’s story Emily discovers that he is not attracted to women. She is already in an unstable state of mind and this information pushes her to the extreme. Emily’s relationship with Barron becomes an obsession rather than a love or compassion. Her obsession forces her to take things to the next level. Emily buys items which point towards marriage and the town begins to talk, as usual. According to Faulkner, Emily purchases “a man’s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B. On each piece” and “a complete outfit of men’s clothing, including a nightshirt” (436). Emily’s beliefs that she was going to have this man forever cause her to buy these things. In Emily’s eyes, whether he wanted to be with her or not, she was determined to have him for her own.
The reader does not discover that she has secretly poisoned Homer Barron with arsenic until the end of the story. Out of curiosity the townspeople search her home, but not until after her burial. Their findings satisfies their desire to know the real truth about her. Faulkner writes, “The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him” (438).
This statement proves that Emily kills Homer out of desperation because she new that by killing him he would never leave her like her father did, because this sleep would, “outlast love”. Miss Emily’s father had sheltered her so much that she could not possibly see herself alone again. All of Miss Emily’s actions throughout her life, prove that she did not kill Homer out of love, but out of desperation and loneliness. She became her father’s child and sheltered Homer like her father had once sheltered her. Homer was Emily’s “rose” and she was not going to let it die.