A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner

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As far as short stories go, the intrigue and awe in William Faulkner’s, A Rose for Emily is one to savor. The details, suspense, and reality the author tries to invoke stylistically is a clear indication of the societal as well as person ordeals people go through on a daily basis. The story is set in the South where Emily Grierson is seen as a noble respected woman of the Grierson legacy which is a family of pride. Faulkner's story is a message of love which is themed by Emily's pursuit of love and acceptance. Emily needs that gratification to feel whole and more so, this needs to come from her father. The whole town admired and respected her but she wanted care, concern, and security from someone special like her father who made her submissive using his horse-whip character and approach to life. And even with the death of his father, Emily seems to be engulfed in an enclosed world that she out herself in to protect her sanity. And it is clear also that Faulkner uses point of view in narration to sway away from the negativity and bad character of Emily as the protagonist.

            Faulkner uses the first-person plural voice as the narrator of this story which implies that the story is being told by a collective narrator. “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral…” (Faulkner, 1). This shows that the collective narrator consists of the voices of most if not all the townspeople in Emily’s old southern town of Jefferson, Mississippi. This choice of narration is Faulkner’s way of letting the readers see and familiarize how Emily’s neighbors viewed her and what opinion they had about her and her family. The collective narrator, however, is not omniscient. Much of the information projected is speculative and based on gossip. But despite this, the collective narrator is also a choice of townspeople who would not soil Emily's good name. The narrator is from the south as well and is familiar with what Emily is going through and hence will defend her actions despite what they are their consequences.

            The town had a sense of understanding towards Emily's behavior and actions. They saw where she coming from whether good or bad. Even in her death, they referred to her as a "fallen monument". When she refused to pay taxes claiming she does not pay taxes in Jefferson, the case was long forgotten. The old southern town did understand, excused and cared for Emily and her actions, which to them were justifiable. "I'm sure that won't be necessary," Judge Steven said. "It's probably a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard…" (Faulkner, 2). This is the town judge and mayor excusing the smell coming from Emily's home when a neighbor complains about it.

"We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that…" (Faulkner, 3). This is how the townspeople understood and justified Emily's lack of bereavement and mourning when her father died. She did not even dress for the funeral. She claimed that her father was not dead. She had no grief on her face and did not follow the customs of the people for a funeral but still, the people held her reputation and made excuses for her to try and understand where she was coming from and her way of uniquely mourning her father's death.

            The narrator explains how the people held high respect for Emily, as the last Grierson in the town. She had no kinsfolk around and had no desire to seek them from other towns such as Alabama where her cousins resided in. People knew a real lady would not forget what they termed as noblesse oblige. “Poor Emily, her kinsfolk should come to her.” (Faulkner, 3). This was how older people made excuses for her not reaching out her family. And she did not do so because her father had fallen out with kinsmen over some estate in Wyatt. Miss Emily had a lot of influence even to the druggist who did not follow protocol when he sold arsenic to Miss Emily. "Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up." (Faulkner, 4). Arsenic was not sold without explaining the reasons as to why a person bought it. Miss Emily was an exception to this law.

As earlier stated, Miss Emily never paid taxes even though she got tax notices. "Each December we sent her a tax notice which would be returned to the post office a week later, unclaimed." (Faulkner, 5). "Meanwhile her taxes had been remitted.' (Faulkner, 4). It is a rule of thumb by the government to pay tax. And it also a right the people exercise as a civic duty in order to serve its government. Taxes are used for nation-building. Hence, it is a mandate every working person to pay taxes. The town, however, is lenient on Miss Emily who refused to pay taxes and no one followed up on this. She was exempted because of the high regard the people of the old southern town of Jefferson held for her.

 In conclusion, A Rose for Emily is an intriguing insight into the life of a woman who is going through a lot of emotions and ordeals that she is handling in a very abnormal way. And this abnormality is understood and excused by the people Miss Emily Grierson is neighboring and in township with. In the pursuit of love, acceptance, and gratification, Miss Emily rose as the protagonist is responsible for a lot of negative deeds and is even speculated to have committed murder and still the people hold her with her regard, as a monumental figure for the town. Faulkner stylistically uses his narrator and point of view in how he depicts this story to deflect negativity from Emily's character and horrible deeds. This goes to show that some people have that charm and charisma that attracts other people to them who overlook all their bad and celebrate the person wholeheartedly.

Work cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Issue of the Forum. April 30, 1930.

August 21, 2023




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