Motivation for “A Rose for Emily”
It is in the human nature to want to have a sense of belonging and to be a part of something bigger, making it difficult to maintain moral decisions. The main character in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” faces moral challenges created by the pressure of wanting to conform to the town’s expectations while still trying to maintain a sense of independence, which ultimately leads up to the motivation to murder of Homer Barron. By holding high expectations, directly interfering in Emily’s life and relationship, and the constant widespread gossip from the Townspeople of Jefferson are the main motivation for the murder of Homer Barron.
Emily Grierson, being the last Southern lady of the Antebellum South was held at a high expectation by the townspeople of Jefferson (Faulkner 160). As Thomas Dilworth points out, the townspeople had wanted to preserve the values of the old south through the embodiment of Emily (252).Faulkner even says that, “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care: a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town (156).” He is implying that the town’s people see that Emily has this hereditary duty to the town. These high expectations were carried over into Miss Emily’s personal sexual needs where she is expected to keep the appearance of a pure southern lady that can be compared to that of Eve from the Garden of Eden (Dilworth 253). Although Emily does rebel against the town for two years by dating a blue-collar construction worker and Yankee Homer Barron in attempt to not conform to the Jefferson townspeople’s expectations of a southern lady (Dilworth 251).The town’s hard to live up to standards are a part of the motivational reasoning that leads up to Emily murdering Homer and keeping his body in a necrophiliac relationship.
Being raised by her father, Emily has always known about the expectations that were to be met, because of who her family is; however, this means that Emily’s personal life has always had interference. When her father was still alive Emily was not to be with any man because, “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such (Faulkner 158),” and when her father finally passed away the towns people began to take his place in interfering in Emily’s life. After Emily has been dating Homer for a little over a year the town begins to suspect the couple’s relationship to be scandalous, assuming adults in their thirties would engage in sexual acts, and leads the town to take actions into their own hands by sending the ntown’s Baptist priest to talk to Episcopal Emily about her actions. The talk with Emily was unsuccessful, causing the town to then call in Emily’s out of state cousins to watch over her. Emily in turn responds by going out into town to buy men’s clothing and toiletries, which in turn leads the town and Emily’s cousins that she is married or is going to soon marry Homer (Faulkner 161-162). The direct interference in Emily’s life is the townspeople blatantly displaying that they no longer have a tolerance for her relationship with Homer, and show a blind eye when Emily purchases arsenic when out in town buying the men’s toiletries and clothing.
Once the cousins believe that Emily is to marry Homer they leave, but that does not change the fact that the townspeople directly interfered with Emily’s personal affairs and still hold Emily in high standards. This means that even if Emily were to marry Homer the townspeople would still gossip on how Homer is a poor moral example for the Jefferson youth. Gossip was a constant reminder to Emily of the expectations required of her and the interference to remind her of this. Gossip is also consistently expressed throughout Faulkner’s story. A direct reference of gossip comes from Faulkner’s story, “When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her” (Faulkner 159). “It got about” is an explicit reference to gossip. Also critic James M. Wallace implies that the gossip throughout the story told by the narrator’s had a wide knowledge of events that went on in the story (106). the narrator relates three separate discussions between Judge Stevens and one woman and two men regarding the smell coming from Emily’s property.
The narrator knows the details of the conversations well enough to quote Judge Stevens’s directly. “‘Dammit sir,’ Judge Stevens said, ‘will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?’” (Faulkner 158). Also earlier when Emily purchased arsenic, “So the next day we all said, “’She will kill herself’; and we said it would be the best thing” (Faulkner 161). “and we said it would be for the best thing,” shows how the town is judgmental and takes Emily’s “falling” as poor moral to the town. The gossip always being a constant factor to Emily is the main reason how the town was able to motivate Emily to motivate Homer. She knew that she would not be able to have her personal needs above the town’s expectations to hold her on a pedestal to preserve the south. The expectations, interference and insistent gossip from the town were the main motivation for Emily to kill Homer. Emily was not able to keep up the façade of being the Southern lady that the town of Jefferson wanted while still upholding her own sexual needs of a grown woman. This leads her to the ultimate decision to murder Homer Barron and keep his body for her own necrophiliac relationship to be able to put the town at ease and calm her own conscience. The murder and necrophilia is a direct result of the town’s expectation, interference, and gossip and are the motivating factors needed for Emily to finally snap.