Emily Grierson in “A Rose for Emily”
In “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner focuses on the life of Emily Grierson, a white aristocratic woman who lives in Deep South. Several aspects of human life are applied in creating the character of Miss Emily by the author in the novel. The short story is uniquely arranged in the form of flashbacks which compels the reader to sympathize with the character of Miss Emily (Caldwell). In the beginning, the reader is meant to feel less passion for Emily. However, this changes once the reader realizes the turmoil that Miss Emily has gone through in her life. Furthermore, Faulkner uses a mixed sequence of events to present Emily as a person in unstable state of mind in the story.
Additionally, the story is arranged in fractured time which allows for Faulkner’s introduction of the characters who are pivotal in understanding the development of Emily’s personality. This essay explores Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” in an attempt to demonstrate that Miss Emily is frozen in time and holds on to the past.Noteworthy is the fact that death surrounds every human being with people losing loved ones including friends and family members. Too much death in one’s life can have adverse effects on a person’s well-being. In agreement with Caldwell, Emily has a more profound grasp of her relationships with the people in her life. Her perception of death and the manner in which she reacts to change (including her requirement to pay taxes) demonstrate a tendency to live in the past. Whereas some people eventually learn to let go and come to terms with the deaths of their loved ones, Miss Emily finds it particularly hard to cope with death, which is an illustration that she is frozen and living in the past. To Emily, change is synonymous with loss and, therefore, in an attempt to hold on to what she deems relevant to her, she tries hard to prevent time from passing. For instance, Emily’s insistence of wearing the watch in her pocket rather than on her wrist may be interpreted as an inherent belief or misguided attempt to control the time at her will (Schwab).
Another specific illustration of Emily’s insistence to live in the past is her adamant resistance to change especially in her refusal to pay taxes. Emily receives several formal notifications asking her to pay taxes, but she insists that she “has no taxes in Jefferson” (Faulkner). Miss Emily also insists on calling the alderman Colonel Sartoris when the Colonel had been dead for over a decade. When the aldermen come for the taxes, she perceives this as an attempt to erase everything from the past and, therefore, she stares them down to prevent time from passing (Faulkner) and chases them away.Additionally, Miss Emily refuses to clean her house resulting in a putrid smell that even the neighbors complain about which could be interpreted as insistence to live in the past. Perhaps this refusal to clean is an illustration that she wants to keep things as they are; frozen in the past. Later in the story, it becomes apparent that the foul smell coming from Miss Emily’s house shortly after Homer Baron’s disappearance may have been Homer’s decaying body. Instead of accepting his death, burying and beginning to grieve her sweetheart Homer, she made attempts to keep him with her always in her bedroom where she could sleep beside him. After Miss Emily’s death, Homer’s remains were found in a bed with a gray hair on the next pillow showing that Miss Emily had indeed lain next to him as if in denial of his death.
Miss Emily also demonstrates a tendency to live in the past after her father’s death. Faulkner narrates that for three days after her father had died, Emily would not grieve, and she kept telling people who came to offer their condolences that her father had not died. The doctors and ministers almost had to resort to force before Emily could let them collect her father’s body.
Conclusively, Miss Emily’s story is told from the perspective a member of the town where she lived and eventually died. The narration helps to convince the reader that the narrative is by a person who knew Miss Emily well. Quotes such as “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral” (Faulkner) reveal that Miss Emily was famous in her town. She may not have been fond of the town people especially after the death of her fianc?© and her father, but she was still respected in her way. The fact that a story was written about her may be ironical considering stories was meant to keep people from forgetting. The story is an illustration of the dangers of holding on to the past, yet in writing it, Faulkner freezes Miss Emily in the past even further, making sure that people will not forget her.