In the reading A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner, expresses a story of a lonely woman who has suffered from being stuck in her older ways of life. Over thirty years before the depiction of Emily’s story, her very strict father passes away, and she was left by herself with no real guidance. In the prime years of her life, the home and street where she lived was very prominent but is now considered an eyesore amongst the community.
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A once luxurious building with a beautiful white coat of paint and plantation styled balconies, now sat covered in dust and corrosion. During the collapse of the once idolized household, the community began to talk amongst themselves about how they sympathized for her. Through time, Miss Emily meets a young man from the North who was overseeing the construction of the sidewalks on her road. His name was Homer Barron. In eyes of the neighborhood he was considered a bachelor. This gave the community more to pity Emily about since the newly found couple began to be seen publicly together on buggy rides. As time passed the two are seen together less and less, and the towns people become concerned when she suddenly purchased deadly arsenic from the local drug store. Not too long after this, no one sees the younger bachelor Homer ever again. Upon Emily’s death, the towns people investigate her home to find the deceased Homer Barron’s body in the bed of the upstairs room with a body imprint next to it. What they discover on the adjacent pillow is unnerving for they find grey strains of hair. The story A Rose for Emily tells a classic derivative of how the southern characteristics of people are obstinate and will eventually die old or lonely from the pressure of not adapting to change.
The author made it clear that Miss Emily was afraid to think for herself and make adaptations with the change of time. The first and most obvious example of this was when Faulkner described the decay of the once beautiful home. Faulkner writes, It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires. Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay (Faulkner 2). The decay of her home represented the time that has passed through the community, and her failure to adapt to cultural changes. Though Miss Emily and her father, while younger, were very well respected in the community; behind closed doors she faced oppression most of her life. The oppression that she faced from her father greatly contributed to her unnatural spirit and attitude. She had come from a once well-respected stature, since her father had allegedly given a large amount of money to the community; which exempted her of future taxes, but now the community looked at her in disappointment. This is seen when Faulkner writes, Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town (Faulkner 3). As time passed with Miss Emily never having to pay her taxes, curtesy of Colonel Sartoris, the new dwellers of the government office decided that it was time for her to begin a new tradition of paying. This represented the growth with time that the rest of the southern community was displaying, but with Miss Emily being lost in her old tradition, she still refused to pay upon the arrival of the newer government officials. This situation later became a lost cause and they gave up hope of ever receiving any funds. Faulkner confirms this when he writes, “I received a paper, yes,” Miss Emily said. “Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson” (Faulkner 10). This was a perfect example of how she was determined to keep her old-styled tradition.
The oppression that she faced from her father as a child began to appear within his death. The only thing that Miss Emily truly ever had in her life was her father. The several denials of his passing opened the eyes of the community and let everyone know that she suffered with letting things go. Faulkner writes, She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body (Faulkner 10). Faulkner continues, She would have to cling to that which had robbed her (Faulkner 11). After her father passed, she was not seen for awhile due to sickness. All of the communities’ thoughts of her never changing quickly deceased once she was seen again with a different haircut and peculiar glow. Once the young man Homer Barron appeared in town, the sidewalk pavement was seen with Miss Emily taking chariot rides across town. A spark of hope seemed to have returned to her. She wanted nothing but someone to claim as her own again, but when the pavement construction was complete, she took matters into her own hands to claim the young man as her own by poisoning him with arsenic upon his re-arrival. Faulkner lets the readers know this when he writes, ‘Arsenic,’ Miss Emily said. ‘Is that a good one?’ (Faulkner 40). And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron (Faulkner 49). This action reclarified the insecurity that she faced of being alone especially upon her death once the towns people found Homer’s corpse still in the bed with her body imprint and hair next to it.
In this piece William Faulkner depicted multiple flawed characteristics of the small community in which Miss Emily resided, but my primary focus of this literary analysis was the main character herself. Her unremovable southern characteristics, from an oppressed childhood, cause her to have a front row seat to the decay of her social status which enviably led her to take the life of her love. With time comes change and it is a human instinct to protect the things we value the most, but just because something is perfect in our eyes does not mean that it can not be improved. Overall, I believe the message that William Faulkner was trying to relay to the reader. Just because something is perfect in our eyes, does not mean that it cannot be improved.
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