Often in society, preconceived notions and ideas obscure facts. Many people believe things on the basis of tradition, rather than relying on signs that say otherwise. In William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose For Emily," the town allowed Emily to get away with murder because their attitude toward her blinded them from obvious clues. Viewed as a "fallen monument" (26), Emily Grierson was put on a pedestal by the inhabitants of Jefferson, Mississippi. Since Colonel Sartoris remitted her taxes after her father's death, Emily was seen as part of the tradition of the small town. The interest in her life held by the townspeople was passed on from generation to generation, as her life progressed.
City officials did not force her to pay taxes, although city records showed no signs of remission. The judge also ordered that lime be put around her house, instead of accusing her to her face of smelling bad. This idea that Emily was above others was held mostly by the older generations of the community, having lived through the time of her father and old lady Wyatt, her great aunt. This idea stemmed from the Grierson name, being a name of nobility for the time. The townspeople enjoyed the idea of pitying Emily, especially after her father dies and she is left alone in her house. Younger generations did not hold her in as high of regard, but kept in tune with the happenings of her life.
The narrator writes, "Thus she passed from generation to generation-dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse." (32). Emily was well taken care of by the people of Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris' remission of Emily's taxes was a way of easing her financial burden. The Baptist minister's wife wrote a letter to her two cousins to reunite them with Emily. The ladies of the small town gave her condolences and aid when her father died, and they made the burial arrangements when she died. Many of the townspeople viewed Emily's craziness as mere eccentricity.
Emily's behavior as a shut-in was viewed as a result of her father's death and her sweetheart's departure. The people often thought of insanity as being a part of her family, remembering her great aunt Wyatt who had gone completely crazy. The day after Emily's father died, the ladies went to Emily's home only to be told flatly by Emily that her father had not died. She refused to let them bury her, and finally, after many pleas from the ministers, she gave in. The narrator writes this instance off by saying, "We believed she had to do that." (29).
"A Rose For Emily" is filled with many obvious clues that Emily would kill Homer. The first clue in the novel comes with the smell coming from her home. The townspeople dismissed the smell as her servant's inability as a male to keep a kitchen properly. The judge decided that the smell was a dead rat or snake the servant had killed, and four men spread lime around the property regularly to neutralize the smell. As more facts become available, it is evident that the smell was that of Homer's body. Another powerful clue comes when Emily attempts to buy arsenic from the druggist.
She wants the most powerful poison available, and she does not answer the druggist when he asks what it will be used for. The townspeople claims that the poison will be used in a suicide attempt and think nothing more of it. This would become her murder weapon. The people of the town did not question when Homer Barron was last seen at Emily's home, yet he was never seen again in town.
They assumed the two had been married and continued with their lives. The town of Jefferson used its own fascination with another person's life to allow a murder to go unpunished and unnoticed. This oversight defines a clear picture of society's tendency to overlook obvious clues for the sake of entertainment and tradition.