A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner is a tale of Miss Emily Grierson, whose funeral drew the attention of the entire population of Jefferson, a small southern town. There were many changes occurring in the world After World War One. Man? s need to follow tradition was now being challenged by a continually changing modern world. William Faulkner aptly reflects the turmoil of the past and the present in, ? A Rose for Emily? . The conflict between the past and the present is symbolized in the beginning of the story by this description, ? only now Miss Emily? s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores? (331). It is ironic that the same description? stubborn and coquettish decay? can be a description for Miss Emily as well.
And just like her house, which had once been white and on a? select street? , Miss Emily had been a slim young girl dressed in white. But as the house fell into decay so had Miss Emily, ? she looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue? (332). Faulkner? s Emily did not have the individual confidence, or maybe self-esteem and self-worth, to believe that she could stand alone and succeed at life especially in the face of changing times. She had always been ruled by, and depended on, men to protect, defend and act for her. From her Father, through the man-servant Tobe, to Homer Barron, all her life was dependent on men. The few flashes of individuality showed her ability to rise to the occasion, to overcome her dependency, when the action was the only solution available.
The town played a part in Miss Emily? s delusion. There were numerous complaints of a foul stench permeating from her property. A younger member of the Board of Aldermen suggested that Miss Emily be told to clean up her property. But due to the old southern ideals of honor, duty and loyalty the older, the more traditional members could not possibly confront her about this matter.
So in the midnight hour they chose to? slunk about the house? and apply lime to the infected areas. Then thirty years later the Board of Aldermen allow themselves to be? vanquished? by Miss Emily as they attempted to collect the delinquent taxes owed the town. The druggist also permits her to purchase arsenic without following protocol. By law Miss Emily was required to tell the druggist what she plan to do with the arsenic. She did not. Emily dwells in the past, there is an atmosphere of unreality created by her.
And once this atmosphere of unreality is established, the reader is being prepared for? Emily? s unnatural act at the end of the story? . This same atmosphere allows the reader to see Miss Emily as a? tragic figure? instead of an evil monster. Miss Emily hold on the past had made her a victim of her own values. The relationship with Homer Barron is also a conflict of the past and the present.
Miss Emily, a Southern aristocrat, is the ideal of past values and Homer, a northern laborer, is a part of the ever-changing present. While Miss Emily is? of moonlight and magnolias, cotton fields, faithful old family servants and Mount Vernon mansions? a quote by Joel Williamson, a historian of the south (Williamson 401). Homer is of machinery, a hearty laugh and a man? s man. Miss Emily symbolizes the slow moving pace of the old south while Homer symbolizes progress of the fast moving pace of the new south. Of course, Emily, like most women dream of getting married and having a family and most of all, being loved. The gossip around town was spreading; the townspeople said "when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased, but vindicated; … She wouldn? t have turned down all of her chances if they had materialized' (221).
Emily wanted to be loved, and she was determined that Homer would be her true love to rescue her from fear, fear of being alone. Indeed Emily took a great liking to Homer, but Homer? s feelings about the relationship were different. It was rumored that "even Homer himself had remarked– he liked men, and it was known that he drunk with younger men in the Elk? s club that he was not a marrying man' (221). Homer left Emily and the town for three days, and then came back. While Homer was gone, Emily still was preparing for her wedding. She bought invitations and clothes for Homer.
Emily grew fearful of Homer? s departure, fear of being left alone again. Faulkner writes' A neighbor saw the Negro man (Tobe) admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening. And that? s the last we saw of Homer Barron' (221). Homer must have planned to leave Miss Emily. When her father had died, she refused to acknowledge his death for three days. Her father, who had been the mainstay of her life, had left her.
The father that turned away potential suitors because he felt that they were not good enough for his daughter. I t was said that she had to? cling to that which had robbed her? . When the only person in Emily? s life passed on, she stood in denial and refused condolences an aid to bury her father from the town ladies. The damage that her father had bestowed upon her by sheltering her from the rest of the world was starting to emerge at the time of his death. By over-protecting Emily and? clutching a horsewhip? (471) to control her life, caused her to become hermit-like in the town she grew up in and knew very well. Homer entered her life by courting her publicly, for there not to be marriage, would have robbed her of her dignity and high standing in the community.
The ladies of the town had already felt that Miss Emily was not setting a good example for the? young people? . The situation was becoming a? disgrace to the town? . Homer could not be allowed to leave, henceforth the arsenic. But this time, the town people would not be able to take Homer from her, as they had with her father. Now the little room above the stairs became the past for Miss Emily. In this room, Emily and Homer remained together as though death had not separated them.
Emily had conquered the present; she was allowed to live her life in the past. The bridal room is the color of roses and symbolizes the color of love. In the room? the valence curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights? and the man? s toilet things backed with tarnish silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured? (337). For a while Miss Emily was able to maintain her past in this rose-colored bridal room, in her rose-tinted world. Miss Emily could not fight time forever, because through death, her past was invaded by the present, at last. After the burial of Miss Emily, the door of the little room was broken down and the past was finally allowed to escape its tomb.
? The man himself lay in bed? (337). The corpse of Homer Barron was in the bridal bed, with the remnants of his nightshirt laid about him. Beside him, a pillow with the? indentation of a head? and a strand of gray hair told the macabre story... Although, Ms. Emily committed murder, she was a victim of her learned environment because of her father and the citizens of Jefferson. This story revolved around one town and one main character.
The beginning of this woman? s well to do life in a poor southern state consisted only of herself and her domineering father living in the same house until the calling of God summoned her elsewhere. Miss Emily managed to make it to age thirty still being single with only the help of her father and? she would? continue to cling to that which had robbed her' (472). The town? s people assumed that? none of the young men were quite good enough for Ms. Emily and such? (471) This could have ended being a grim horror story but instead it shows a repressed, overprotected woman denied a chance to live a normal life because of the times. The purpose of the story is that life is unpredictable and we are all products of our environment. Some of us choose not to let an unfortunate way of life rule us, Miss Emily on the other hand did not have self-esteem, self-worth and confidence to persuade her otherwise.
She had been ruled by her father, deemed a crazy woman by the town and lost many men that had come calling her. The one man that she held somewhat of a relationship with was going to leave her and her only solution in order to hold onto him was to do the unthinkable and murder him to keep him from leaving like all the rest. In this day an age, Emily would have been diagnosed with mental disorder, which would have required her to contend with her separation anxiety behavior that stemmed from the nucleus of her family, primarily her father. In the beginning Emily was being controlled and in the end Emily learned to control. Sociology teaches that everything is a learned behavior, including the environment in which we are harvested from. I would also like to imply that it is impossible to kill without creating conditions for your own murder.
Miss Emily may have thought that by administering the rat poison to Homer she would finally get and keep what she always wanted regardless of a beating heart. But in the end she was still alone.