Roses for Emily: The Conflict Between the Old and the New Generation

Before the Civil War in America, the south was famous for its thriving farms, beautiful estates, and the alluring inhabitants that lived there. Nevertheless, after the Civil War, the once thriving south had been left broken. It was time for change in a society solely based on traditional heritage. Older generation southerners were still hanging on to their old beliefs; however, the younger generation of southerners was prepared for progression. Within William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose For Emily” is a continuous conflict between the older and newer generation of southerners and the constant desire to develop in a state of uncertainty.

Miss Emily Grierson, herself, embodies the soul of the old south, and its former ways of heritage, nobility, and etiquette. These ideas were imposed by her father and the high stature of her family name. When her father passes away, she becomes faced with a new era, regardless of her principles of the old. “As if the quality of her father which thwarted her woman’s life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die,” (Faulkner, 34). After the passing of her father, Miss Emily becomes faced with an internal conflict between the customary ways of her late father’s generation and the newer generation she now resides within. Miss Emily resolves this situation by becoming a hermit, not to be heard from for years, and does not deal with the integration into the newly changed society; thus, the same symbolism she represents has victimized her into a long and lonely life.

Furthermore, ten years later into her father’s passing, Miss Emily comes to have an external conflict with the newer generation. Shortly after her father’s passing, Miss Emily’s taxes are repealed by the mayor, Colonel Sartoris. However, ten years forward, “the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and alderman, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction. On the first of the year, they mailed her a tax notice,” (Faulkner, 31). Colonel Sartoris’ repealing of Miss Emily’s taxes represented the chivalrous manner of the older generation of men within the south.

Miss Emily’s refusal of the taxes depict the unfaltering stubbornness of the older generation’s ways, forming a tense conflict between her and the newer generation of lawmakers. The mayor and his appeal epitomize the continuous change within the era and the new regard for authority and their establishment of new regulations. This dispute could be interpreted as a portrayal of Faulkner’s contrast of the old south and its decline of tradition with the new innovative ideas for the post-reconstruction of the new south.

Miss Emily and Homer Barron’s courtship represented a dispute between customary traditions of the older generation and the modernism of the newer generation during the post-reconstruction is the new south. Faulkner depicts Homer to be, “A Yankee—a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face,” (Faulkner, 33). Homer comes from more modern and forward moving times in the north. The narrator states, ‘that he is not a marrying man,” (Faulkner, 34).

However, Miss Emily and her personification of southern tradition desire to be respectably united in wedlock. On the other hand, Homer embodies the newer era pushing into the south. His more audacious and pompous persona makes Miss Emily fall for him, regardless of his lack of interest for her, but this represents the disunity of unifying the older and newer generations. Miss Emily and her older customs ultimately lead to Homer’s passing. Her inner conflict between his newer views of using her and more noble views, causes her to poison Homer for not seeing things as she does, also representing the unreasonable narrow-mindedness of the old south.

In conclusion, William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose For Emily” embodies all of the conflicts between the older and newer generations of the South after the Civil War. Through Faulkner’s characterization choice of Miss Emily, her father, Colonel Sartoris, and various other characters he tells a story not only about the passing and decline of a southern woman but a story of the rising conflict in a new era of the south.