In William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” the focus is on Miss Emily and her Southern up bringing. In this story the Southern setting is vital to our understanding of Miss Emily and her ultimate mental collapse. In the South during Miss Emily’s life time for a woman not to be married was socially unacceptable. In Southern society during this time, and even today, it was encouraged and believed that to be happy it was necessary for one to be married. Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is a classical example of Southern literature because of the importance of family, community, religion, time and place. Miss Emily represented the importance of all of these things on Southern society.
In this story the female protagonist, Miss Emily, is forced to conform to her father’s Southern societal values. Her family represented a monument of the past; Emily was referred to as a “fallen monument.”(75). She was a relic of Southern gentility and past values. She was considered fallen because she had been proven susceptible to death and decay. Like the rest of the world Miss Emily’s father chased away any and all men that tried and wanted to marry her. Miss Emily was very controlled by her father. He was very protective of her and extremely dominating. This kind of family environment for women was typical of southern society. Miss Emily herself represented, “a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation” (75).
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The women, like Miss Emily, of this time dressed in a conspicuous manner because their appearance directly reflected their husbands or fathers. Of course this display of wealth was only there to impress onlookers. Emily’s father regarded her as property like the house in which they both lived. The house in which Miss Emily lives is used as an example of the lavish expense and show of wealth that aged with Miss Emily. Just as the town’s people noticed that Miss Emily’s was lifeless so was the house in which she lived. Ultimately, at the time of Emily’s death, the house was seen by the townspeople as "an eyesore among eyesores," and Miss Emily is regarded as a "fallen monument" (75). Both the house and Miss Emily are seen as empty, lifeless and lack all their former splendor. William Faulkner used the Grierson house as a symbol of Miss Emily’s change in social status in the community over time. The members of the Grierson family, especially Emily, were also considered to be strong and powerful. The townspeople regarded them as regal. Moreover, Emily, who was the last living Grierson, came to symbolize her families, and possibly the entire south’s, rich past.
The major antagonist in the story was time, and change in the community in which Miss Emily lived. Miss Emily believed as many antebellum families believed then, and even now, that they are better than anyone else just because of her last name was Grierson. Towards the end of Miss Emily’s life the community in which lived started to change. They communities’ leaders no longer wanted to allow Miss Emily to evade her taxes. In the time right after her father had died Colonel Sartoris, the mayor at the time, told Emily that her father had loaned the town money, and in order to repay her the town would preferred her to not pay taxes, “Only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it” (75). The leaders of the community went to collect the taxes from Miss Emily after she refused to pay them through the mail. The idea that Miss Emily had a mail box was evidence that times were changing and Miss Emily was growing older and less important, and things would no longer be easy for her just because her last name was Grierson. Miss Emily refused for a long time to except anything modern and common.
This idea that change of time, and change in the community were real and directly effected Miss Emily is Homer Barron. Emily held the view of the past as if it were a rose-tinted place where nothing would ever die. Her world was already the past. Whenever the modern times were about to take hold of her, she retreated to that world of the past, and took Homer with her. Her room upstairs was that place, a place where Emily could stay with dead Homer forever as though neither death nor disease could separate them. Homer had lived in the present, and Emily eventually conquered that, by killing him.
Miss Emily was merely a product of her environment. William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” displays an ideal of the antebellum Southern society that is often still associated with the south. Faulkner succeeded in writing a work of Southern literature that displays a romantic pull of the past and the idea that submission to this romance was a form of death thematically, death conquers all. The story of Miss Emily Grierson from Yaknapatawpha County is a tale depicting the romance of the South combined with the story itself created a captivating atmosphere, a world where no one wants.
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