The short story, “A Rose for Emily”, by William Faulkner is recognized as a love story gone wrong. It is a masterpiece of short fiction and considered to be one of the greatest American literature. The story is told from the point of view of a nameless narrator and a longtime member of the Jefferson town, which is where the story is taking place. The short story opens up with Miss. Emily’s death and ends with her death. It revolves around Emily Grierson who was a young lady who lived all her life with her father. When her father died she acted in solitude. Leading to Miss. Emily having difficulties settling into modern society and not wanting to change. Instead she focused on the past other than the present. The main theme in the short story “A Rose for Emily” is isolation and compromise, themes are shown through motifs such as death or compassion.
The story “A Rose for Emily” presents Emily as a very headstrong lady who lives her life the way she wants and finds her own ways to deal with situations. Faulkner illustrates the theme of isolation in “A Rose for Emily” in discussions of Emily childhood and never being allowed to interact with the children of the town. Emily lived in the southwestern regions where they revolved around traditions. Emily being like father like daughter was a very stubbornness woman. The impact that her father had on her was negative and can be blamed for the way her love life turns out. Emily has always been secluded from the outside world. However, after her father’s death, she does not interact with people in her town nor was she taught how to interact with the fellow towns people. She dismisses the modern world ideologies and preferred to be by herself. It can be seen that Emily is against progression as a town through the rejection of the new mailbox outside her house.
Emily’s house is a symbol of the dying southern tradition. The house is decorated abundantly; however, it is out of place among the other industrial buildings she is surrounded by. In the years before her death Miss. Emily is described as a decaying figure that will cling onto the past. Her House “had once been white,” which is the only house on the block “an eyesore among eyesore,”. (Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”). It is similar to the way the Old South sensibilities are out of place in a community that continues to grow rapidly. The house in some ways are an extension of Emily: “Stubborn and coquettish decay” to the residents of the town. The house is a testament and preservation of tradition, but is out of place just like the cotton wagons that surround the industrial traps. It is almost like Miss Emily has died before her actual death. Her body, similar to her mind, clinging to whatever it could to keep her physically alive.
Emily’s house also represents compassion for her. In the house lies her dead lover homer. Homer Barron is the Yankee construction foreman who becomes Emily Grierson’s first love. Emily and Homers relationship was considered odd almost scandalous because he was a northerner and never planned to be married. Even though to the town the house symbolizes alienation and mental illness. The house to the men who sprinkled the lime along her house is seen to them as a fascinating foundation.
William puts the theme of compromise in “A rose for Emily” like many of his stories. In this case the towns people are able to compromise with Emily through the feeling of pity by the town’s population. When she was alive, Miss Emily was considered “a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation on the town, “but now that she is dead, she has joined “the representatives of those august names where they lay…among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.” (Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”). A tradition for the men to attend Miss. Emily funeral out of “a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument…” (Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”). Pity forced upon on the town because of who Emily’s father was.
Unfortunately, because of who Emily was and how she was raised by her father she is unable to compromise. Emily was not able to compromise with the rejection from Homer her past lover who was not planning to get married. She decides to kill him using arsenic commonly used for rats and purchases a monogrammed toilet set with the initial H.N, and men clothing. The uncompromising habits that Emily has leads to her having miseries such as homer who lives with her in her house. A smell that haunts her house through death.
Faulkner story is disorganized and is not chronological. The reader has to learn Miss Emily’s history just like a new person to Jefferson. Faulkner building suspense by imitating the southern storyteller’s style through Emily triggered memories. The idea of dependence in the short story can be reinforced when homer attempts to leave Emily, but Emily refuses. Emily’s dependency, forces her to be dependent on her house. It holds all of her weaknesses and shows how she is not ready to let anything go nor change also relating back to how uncompromising Emily is. Which is a consequence of the way she is raised. The story shows forgiveness, compassion and an attempt to understand, though isolation is highlighted by tradition. The story is against isolation in the end.
In addition, the theme of isolation and compromise is developed through the character of Emily and her arrogant mindset. In summary, the gruesome images that are demonstrated in the short story show how she attempts to stick to the past, however it is impossible because of the natural process of decaying and lavishing life that everything must go through. As shown in this essay, isolation and compassion in “A Rose for Emily” reveals the tragedy of human perish.
- “A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner.” Enotes.com, Enotes.com, www.enotes.com/topics/rose-emily/critical-essays.
- Shmoop Editorial Team. “A Rose for Emily Summary.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/study-guides/literature/a-rose-for-emily/summary.