A Rose for Emily a Literature Analysis
“A Rose for Emily”, is a short story written by American Author William Faulkner published in 1931. This literature work is, perhaps, Faulkner’s most well-known short story. This story is written in a Southern Gothic Style, divided into five sections. It is set in a post-Civil War era. Faulkner’s story is not told in chronological order. It starts with her death and goes back through flashbacks about events of Miss Emily Grierson, the main character’s life that shape who she was and what drives her to commit her actions. In the story, the recurrent use of “we” instead of “I” represents the shared opinion of the town people and tells the readers that this story is being told in first person view. It touches a darker theme and the possible psychological disorder that the main character, Miss Emily has, which is the inability to let go of what she once knew and adjust to the new changes that her town is partaking in.
The setting for a “Rose for Emily” takes place in the south in a fictional town named Jefferson. The time period that the story takes place is after the Civil War. During this time, the south was going through a “reconstruction” stage were the southern states had abolished slavery and had to pay their war debts but were free to reconstruct and oversee their own communities. During the post-Civil War era, the southern states passed something called “black codes”. Black codes laws were passed by southern states in the year 1865 and 1866 after the American Civil War in an attempt to legally restrict the rights of freedom of African Americans to be able to control them and use them for physical labor. This is why in ”A Rose for Emily,” Mayor Colonel Sartoris is able to decree that “no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron”(Faulkner 82).
At the beginning of the story, the narrator, who seems to be a neighbor or someone who resides in the same town as Miss Emily, in the town of Jefferson; subjectively, gives the reader a glimpse about whom Miss Emily Grierson is as a character through the outside townspeople’s perspective; how the town saw her and how they reacted to her and her actions. In the story, the narrator tells the audience that, “…[our] whole town went to her funeral” (Faulkner 82). This sentence allows the reader to assume that Miss Emily was considered some type of aristocrat, an upper-class lady. To the men of the town, she seemed like a fallen monument, to be respected (Faulkner 82), which symbolized tradition, a way of life, and certain “old” morals that Miss Emily represented in some way. To the women, she was a secretive and unusual woman because of her isolation. Miss Emily was the last generation of a white, rich, and privileged family who was possibly ruined by the war. Through the narrator of the story, the audience learns that her house stood in a rotting neighborhood, “Garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagon and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner 82). Her house could possibly symbolize her refusal to accept change and move on. Perhaps, Miss Emily was not ready for change and she tried to cling on to her past as much as possible. To have a sense of familiarity in a place she no longer recognized. Another scenery is the inside her household, which nobody except an old man-servant, gardener, and cook had seen in ten years (Faulkner 82). “It smelled of dust and disuse- a close, dark smell ” (Faulkner 82). According to the narrator, when the maidservant opened the blinds of a window, they could see that the leather was cracked and faint dust “rose sluggishly”. The picture of Miss Emily’s father behind her on “a tarnished gilt easel” may suggest the male-controlled culture in which Miss Emily had grown up in. It was an old-fashioned culture and, even though Emily’s father has been dead for a while, he still had some influence over Miss Emily. All these designate how stubbornly Miss Emily gripped to the nobleness and dignity she had in her past. Again, refusing to let go and move on.
The author, Faulkner, choose a very peculiar way of point of view to tell this story. He chose the point of view of the townspeople. The narrator gives the readers the opportunities to let their imagination wander and create their own conclusions through the story. This helped maintain the reader in suspense, not knowing what was going to happen next. The audience kept seeing Miss Emily through the eyes of the townspeople. The reader does not know what she is thinking or what she is doing inside her house. This keeps the audience guessing. If Faulkner had written the story from Miss Emily’s point of view, the story would have lacked mystery and it would have lost its shock value at the end because the reader would have known everything that Miss Emily was doing, why she was doing these things, and the emotions that she was dealing with; one of them being fear. The fear of letting go of the past and moving on.
Overall, Faulkner’s main theme and conflict of the story “A Rose for Emily”, is the inability to move on. Miss Emily’s character, since the beginning had trouble letting go of her past. She used any measure she could to cling to her past. The reader can see that on multiple occasions in the story. When her father died she refused to accept his death for three days in a row saying that her father was not dead (Faulkner 84). The reader sees that same pattern with the death of Colonel Sartoris. Miss Emily still refused to accept this death, even though the Colonel had been dead for ten years. Faulkner, through his story, shows in a way, how some people cope with the problem of a civilization that is deterioration and evolving at the same time. He explores the psychological reality of a southern community who is adapting to change and shows the reader the correlation of the past to the present. In the end, Miss Emily does not change her way of thinking. She dies a lonely woman, clinging to her old life. Never changing her thought process.