A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner – An Analysis
Table of Contents
William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily is a short story written in the 1930s that tells about the mysterious life of Miss Emily. The story narrates the conflicts in Miss Emily’s life, showing how social change in the south can affect an individual. The narrator of the story, who represents the town, details the mysterious life of Miss Emily (Bai et al., 2020). The story lends itself to diverse interpretations and themes as depicted in A Rose for Emily from the context of the deterioration of the southern way of life while providing an in-depth of the story’s thematical subjects and the significant traits of the characters.
The story starts with the death of Miss Emily, where the narrator speaks of the funeral attendance. Many years before her death, only her servant Tobe had been inside of her house. Although it was seen as the perfect house in the neighborhood at one time, it grew in disrepair over the years. The story that Miss Emily refused to pay taxes was known all over the town, and people wondered how she got the privileges. Her neighbors also complained of a stench coming from her house two years after her father’s death, and a short time after, Baron, her sweetheart, went away. When Baron left, the town saw very little of Miss Emily, and they kept asking Tobe for information he refused to divulge. Finally, after her burial, the fleshless skeleton of Homer Baron was found lying on a bed at Miss Emily’s.
This short story revolves around thematic issues, including death, the old southern decline, and community. Death appears in the story as a literal event but is also used figuratively. The narrator mentions five deaths in the length of the story. Miss Emily preserves the memory of Colonel Sartosi when she tells the new town council members when they come to her for tax, just as she literally preserves Baron (Chang & Che, 2016). The council members only went for the taxes since the colonel died ten years prior. The narrator also describes Miss Emily as looking bloated, “long submerged in motionless water.” When the narrator tells about her father’s death, Emily first denies it and keeps the body for three days before allowing his burial. During these instances, Emily is shown as a person who does not move on from the past (Bai et al., 2020). She either holds it in memory or physically, as she did with Baron’s body. It is also suggested that Emily loves it when a strand of her grey hair is found beside the corpse. Secondly, the story depicts the decline of the south and delineates the generations. The younger people accept Baron, while the older generation finds it despicable that Emily associates with him. Emily also gave china-painting lessons, but the ladies she taught did not send their children to her. Emily’s secret serves as a metaphor for the dying southern traditions. Third, the community isolation is shown through Emily’s bizarre relationship with the people of Jefferson. Emily stays isolated from the townspeople most of her life. However, the people are obsessed with her life and view her as an “idol in a niche.” The context that her separation creates obsession proves a conflict in the story.
The story’s main character, Emily Grierson, is surrounded by other characters of Jefferson who complete A Rose of Emily through their traits. The unknown narrator describes her as tranquil and perverse, born into an aristocratic family. She is a murderer since the narrator mentions the purchase of arsenic and the putrid smell of her house. Emily is also a recluse who keeps away from the other town members (Chang & Che, 2016). The narrator is one of the townspeople who seemingly speaks on their behalf. He is particular in narrating and descriptive in his narration, which concludes that he is either observant as an individual or is fascinated with Emily’s life. Homer Baron is a northerner and free-spirited who is not interested in marriage. The negro Tobe is secretive since he declines to mention Emily’s business even when the town persists. It can also be deduced that he is afraid that he may be accused as an accomplice. Colonel Sartoris is a considerate southern man who spares Emily from embarrassment by lying that Emily’s taxes were covered by a loan indebted to the town by her father. However, in another description from the narrator, it appears he is discriminative and racist when he says negro women must appear in public wearing aprons. Judge Stevens is another southern man from the same generation as the colonel and Emily’s father. He believes he is an honorable man and disallows a confrontation with Emily about the smell emanating from her house (Bai et al., 2020). Although he is briefly mentioned, Emily’s father influences her character development and, from the narration, is a harsh and inconsiderate man. He thinks all the suitors who come for Emily’s hand are not good enough for her, leaving her destitute when he dies. The narrator foreshadows Baron’s death when he mentions Emily’s father’s dead body in the house for three days.
William Faulkner uses a first-person narrator to tell the story of a spinster who lives in Jefferson, separated from her environment. Through a vivid description of the town’s obsession with Emily, the narrator unfolds the events before her death. A Rose for Emily reveals the thematic subjects of death, the decline of the south, and isolation. The paper describes the character traits the story depicts to properly understand the people surrounding Emily. A Rose for Emily is a short story about the diminishing southern life that tries to hold on to their ways despite the changes around them.