William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” tells the story of a young woman who is violated by her father’s strict mentality. After being the only man in her life Emily’s father dies and she finds it hard to let go. Emily was raised in the ante-bellum period before the Civil War. This story takes place in the Reconstruction Era after the war when the North takes control of the South. Like her father Miss Emily possesses a stubborn outlook towards life, she refuses to change. This short story explains Emily, her mystified ways and the townsfolk’s sympathetic curiosity.Order now
The plot of the story is mainly about Miss Emily’s attitude about change. “On the first of the year they mailed her a tax notice. Febuary came and there was no reply. They wrote her a formal letter asking her to call at the sheriff’s office at her convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin flowing calligraphy in faded ink , to the effect that she no longer went out at all. The tax notice was also enclosed, without comment,” 40-41.
Miss Emily was convinced that she had no taxes in Jefferson because before the Civil War the South didn’t have to pay. This change occurred when the North took over the South. “After her father’s death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all,” 41. Miss Emily might have stayed out of the public eye after these two deaths because she was finally alone, something she in her petty life was not used to. Emily’s father never let her alone and when he died Homer Barron was a treat that she was never allowed to have.
Miss Emily’s stubborn attitude definitely came from her father’s strict teachings. The characters of this story are very briefly mentioned, Miss Emily and Mr. Homer Barron are the two main characters described. Miss Emily was described as a short, fat, aged, and mysterious woman. Miss Emily had been through much and has seen many generations grow before and around her. This brings reason to her strong Confederate beliefs. Homer on the other hand was quite the opposite, “A Yankee–a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face,” 43.
Homer described himself as a man who couldn’t be tied down. This had to be a terrible opposition for Miss Emily. Towards the end of the story Emily seems to prove him wrong. The setting of this passage is highly essential because it defines Miss Emily’s tight grasp of ante-bellum ways. This story takes place throughout the Reconstruction Era from the late 1800s to the early 1900s in Jefferson, Mississippi. Jefferson was just one of the many Southern towns which was reformed by Northern reconstruction. The Confederate economy quickly deteriorated without free labor to aid in their farms and plantations. Miss Emily refused to allow modern change into her desolate life. For example she refused to let the newer generation fasten metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox when Jefferson got free mail service. This reflects Miss Emily’s unyielding persona caused by her father’s treatment when she was young. When Miss Emily’s death occurred the newer Jefferson generations were left without an ante-bellum perspective.
“A Rose for Miss Emily” is told through the eyes of the townspeople which is an example of limited omniscient; a narrator inside the work telling the story. Faulkner expressed a lot of the resident’s opinions towards Emily and her family’s history. They mention old lady Wyatt, her great aunt who had gone completely mad. These opinions seem to come from female members of the town because they have a nosy approach. “At first we were glad Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, ‘Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.’,” 43. The ladies continue to throw sympathy towards Emily, although she never hears of it. She is slightly aware of the faint whispers that began when her presence draws near. Gossip and whispers might have been the causes of her ghastly behavior.
The story’s theme is simple, Miss Emily cannot except the fact that times are changing and society is growing. With this dilemma she isolates herself from civilization, using her butler, Tobe to run her errands. Maybe Miss Emily is shy about her old fashioned beliefs. If no one was to observe her then no one could force her to change. “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,” 45. This might have been a horrible way to die because no one was quickly informed of the death, and know one knew how the tragedy occurred. When Miss Emily died Jefferson lost a monument of the Old South.
This passage contains a high rate of symbolism, icing on the cake as far as the work is involved. “A small, fat, woman in black woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt,” 41. The hidden watch at the end of Emily’s chain symbolizes how time has been hidden from her all of these years. This hidden time results in her stubborn unchanging ways. “Only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps,” 40. This house represents the Old South, like Miss Emily it is the only one of its kind left to face a modern generation. This could be a reason why she remained isolated for such a long span of her life. Emily, was just another wrinkle in time accompanied only by dreams and memories.
This story’s tone is disturbing. “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 thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun- ray,” 41. The dust leaves an old and sluggish impression. The reader can almost inhale the motes of age old dust. “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,” 46. This except leaves the reader shocked and disgusted. The tone could also be sympathetic towards Miss Emily.
Faulkner’s style is quite difficult because it isn’t written in chronological order. It begins by telling about Emily’s past and her family history. This information explains her future behavior and opinions effects of this method create a better ending because it catches the reader unexpectedly. The diction and sentence structure are fairly advanced, but soon leads to a greater understanding of the passage because it sets the mood of that specific time. “And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at battle of Jefferson,” 40. Terms like this were used throughout to aid in setting the Reconstruction mood. This story also teaches the reader a little more about the Old South.
In conclusion, “A Rose for Emily” is a shocking tale about Emily Grierson, her love, and her inability to accept change. Emily is a prime example of the Old South and it’s changing hardships.