The Mysteries of William Faulkner Writing In “A Rose for Emily”
"A Rose for Emily" Analysis
A Rose for Emily is really a story compiled by an American writer William Faulkner, initially published in the “Forum” magazine dating April 30, 1930. The events of the story take place in Jefferson City (Mississippi state), in an imaginary county of Yoknapatawpha that the author developed himself. This is the first Faulkner’s story published in an established national journal.
But that is not a proper introduction with this story. William Faulkner is not only “an American writer” — he is a legendary persona in the world literature, who contributed immensely to describing social breakdown following the Civil War. In his works, the writer explored such themes as violence, human decay, terror, dark minds and the unwillingness of society to understand if not notice every one of these concepts. This eventually brought him a Nobel Prize in literature.
Despite its pinky and optimistic title, “A Rose for Emily” is just a gloom text full of the aforementioned themes: dilapidated estate of “once great aristocratic Grierson family”, a dead corpse of Homer Barron lying in the bed being “loved” for many years and a mentally disturbed woman Emily Grierson “loved by her father” in to loneliness and necrophilia.
From the first standpoint, this is a pretty simple story. It’s short and has merely a handful of characters who each have limited and specific roles: Mr. Grierson and his daughter Emily — their job is to be noble and crucial; Emily’s beloved low-class Homer Barron, who she kills to keep around her forever; Colonel Sartoris that exempts them from paying city taxes; the unbearable cousins that arrive for Emily’s rescue when she falls in love with a “nobody Homer” and, finally, the town — that is shocked when they discover after the funeral what atrocities were going on in Emily’s house for decades.
After which there is the narrator that introduces Mr. Faulkner’s story to the readers. The narrator is just a compilation of different gents and ladies of Jefferson town who each features a story to share with about Emily. The plot goes back and forward constantly, operating on memories, stereotypes, bits and pieces of information that isn't easy to assembled until the very end. The events end up in a gothic whirl of a dark and scary story whose main topic can be described as a resistance to changes and habit of generations to consider “as we used to consider it” and do “as our parents used to do it. ”
Faulkner is well-known for the writing techniques that produce his suspenseful stories a lot more mystique and gripping. Among such methods employed in this specific book is really a complete insufficient chronology in how the events unfold from chapter to chapter and a constant shift of author’s focus from one phenomenon or character to another. To understand the story better, read the chronological order of the events below. Hopefully, it will help you unwind the plot threads and place all the ducks (events in the story) in a row.
However for now let’s focus on the core meaning of this story. Who are its main actors? The protagonist Emily Grierson is just a lonely, reserved and stubborn old lady who lives in the past. She's a textbook example of social injustice and unwillingness to alter. Her father, Mr. Grierson, was once a successful Southern man, who's now desperately gripping to whatever was left of his wealth and status after the war. He treats the whole town as if they belonged to him and doesn’t want anybody in the future near his daughter. In his example, the reader sees that even after slavery was renounced, previous slave owners were still respected by default and enjoyed numerous undeserved benefits. The author says in Chapter 4:
“Miss Emily's people were Episcopal”,
like the whole town belonged to Emily, she was their symbol and their pain at the same time.
Town is a character on its own — its thoughts and a few ideas, attitudes and fears towards Emily and her family constitute a sizable portion of story’s events and possibly even serve as the major reason for a crooked behavior exhibited by the Grierson family they worshipped. The narration starts with memories of different men and women who lived in Jefferson and attended the funeral of legendary Emily Grierson. In the beginning of Chapter 1 Faulkner presents his narrators’ intentions to be at this funeral:
“…The men via a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the ladies mostly out of curiosity to start to see the inside of her house. ”
Their memories about Emily are confusing, they've been broken, perhaps not complete, originate from different people and also have different quantities of details.
The title of the story gives a small hint that despite all of the atrocities described in the written text, the author doesn’t despise his character. Rather than blaming, that he actually really wants to give her tribute, just like a man does when that he gives a flower to his lady. Inhabitants of Jefferson also desperately resisted thinking badly of her. In chapter 2 we read:
“When her father died, it got about this the house was all that has been left to her; and in a way, individuals were glad. Finally they could pity Miss Emily. ”
The city considered her weird, they judged her when she fell in love with the construction worker Homer, but couldn’t even imagine that she could have murdered him when her house started to smell badly.
Through this book Faulkner demonstrates that on the planet there are individuals who do unpleasant things to change history, and the ones who would do everything in order to avoid things that are unpleasant. Faulkner’s characters are divided into two categories: those that want to avoid dealing with Emily at all costs (Colonel Sartoris who exempts the weird lady from taxes, the pharmacist who doesn’t ask Emily what she'll use the arsenic for, or the new mayor Judge Stevens who sends four men to quietly sprinkle lime around her cellar and yard to eliminate the smell) and those who wish to find excuses to worship her.
Reading the story is like reading the minds of Jefferson inhabitants. And it’s not yet determined whether the darkness was about Emily — or maybe it were the tiny pieces of everybody’s flaws that covered this story with horror. In the end, there is a little piece of weirdness in all folks.
“A Rose for Emily” in Chronological Order
Sometimes around Civil War: Emily Grierson comes into the world, her father (who is never named in the text), is just a controlling and invasive man who thinks too high of his origins. He isolates her from social interaction — but this only makes town inhabitants much more interested in her. They consider her being an idol and a symbol of the settlement.
Despite slowly losing their wealth and status, Grierson family is seen riding in a fancy carriage and continues to be perceived as a trophy and pride of Jefferson.
Around the year 1894: Emily’s father died, but she kept it a secret for three whole days. We know this date because in 1894, shortly after her father dies, Emily is exempt from paying city taxes by mayor Colonel Sartoris. The main of town makes up an account that Miss Emily’s father loaned money to the town council, but nobody generally seems to believe it. Despite giving some music lessons to a couple kids, Emily becomes increasingly more estranged, encapsulating herself in her estate and not socializing with other citizens.
Summer after her father’s death and when Emily was in her 30s: Homer Barron arises from North seeking construction work in the city and starts a relationship with Emily. Townspeople disapprove of such inappropriate liaison of a noblewoman and a low-class nobody. They call on her two female cousins ahead from Alabama to talk some sense into Emily.
Homer leaves town, then cousins leave town.
1 year after Emily and Barron relationship began: Emily is seen buying rat poison. They think she desires to kill herself, and no one seems to care much about this. But later Emily also buys a bunch of male things: clothes, engraved shaving kit. People think Emily and Barron might get married after all.
Three days after Emily’s cousins leave town (the town population appears to think that their character is even more difficult than Emily’s), Barron comes back in to town but disappears soon after it.
2 years after father’s death: Emily’s house starts to smell really bad. Everybody in the town notices it, but nobody dares to confront her. They spray lime around her house in the center of the night and after a about a week the smell disappears. Appears like everybody forgot about the lady afterward — since there is no recollection or memories of her after that.
“The only sign of life about the place was the Negro man-a young man then-going in and out with a market basket. ” (Chapter 2)
30 years later: New chiefs of town (Board of Alderman) come to Emily’s house (being one of the few those who ever came up to that mansion) to renounce a previous deal and make her pay the city taxes. She declares that she'd do no such thing.
Emily dies around age 74. Entire town involves her funeral and recalls their memories and impressions about the old lady. Following the funeral people enter her house for the first time in ten years. Her servant lets them in and disappears. Upstairs in the bedroom, people find a corpse of Homer Barron and gray female hair on the pillow next to him.