Refusal to change is the underlying theme of A Rose for Emily, a short story written by William Faulkner. This paper serves as an in-depth examination of how the main character, Emily Grierson, correlates with society. This tale is also about a woman who had been set aside for a remarkably long time, with the domineering nature of her father causing her to believe herself as unwanted and estranged from society. William Faulkner utilizes setting, character development, and other stylistic devices to express the mystery of Emily and the dark curiosity the people have about her.
A Rose for Emily doesn’t fit the outline of a traditional narrative, which has the beginning, middle and end. In this story, the tale really begins with the funeral of the main character, Emily, who was an “aristocratic” woman very much admired by her community. After finding out that Emily had died, Faulkner keeps the reader involved by recounting the words of others in the story, who speak of how they feel of Emily’s death and how they remember her.
Also unlike a traditional narrative, the time period shifts periodically.
The first shift is to a few years before her death, specifically to the event of the mayor reminding her about her unpaid taxes. Emily rejected them arrogantly and told the mayor he should speak to a man named Colonel Sartorius. The truth of the matter, however, is that Colonel Sartorius has been long deceased. The second times shift takes the reader to another time-period, to when Emily’s father was still alive. This time shift shows how their status as rich southern aristocrats was overturned due to the Civil War.
Despite the fact that they were no longer rich, both Emily and her father remained proud. They even declined every man who had courted Emily to pursue a relationship with her or marry her. (This was most likely to hide the fact that they weren’t the rich family they made themselves out to be, as the father of the bride generally paid for the wedding. ) Next, the story goes on to inform the readers of the death of Emily’s father and how she kept up her southern belle attitude and grace. Then came Homer Barron, a contractor.
Emily grew to love him; however their relationship was made difficult by the visit of her two distant cousins from another state. This caused Homer to temporarily leave Emily to allow her adequate time to get rid of them. Once they had left, Homer returned home. The townspeople, as curious as they were, noticed that that was the only time they’d seen him and much peculation ensued. After Emily was buried, the townspeople broke into her house to see the vestiges of her life. The image before them was startling, to say the least.
The skeletal remains Home were visible, beside them a pillow with an indentation of Emily’s head. This short story portrayed Emily as purely a victim, one who fell into the cruel hands of a twisted, gossip addicted society. During her life, Emily had succumbed to the unrelenting dictations of her late father, as well as to the overbearing townspeople. Emily may had killed Homer in order to gratify the unspoken rule that “the rich should not marry the poor,” which was, in her mind, plausible, as she considered herself as the wealthy aristocrat from years before.
Although she went through with murdering Homer, she still loved him. She disregarded the towns’ comments concerning an awful smell coming from her house. She tried to cover up her tarnished life by simply refusing to admit that she was not who she made herself out to be, possibly out of pride. Emily had been resistant to change by refusing to accept the death of both her father and Homer. Faulkner seems to consider Emily as a victim, and therefore it is assumed that Emily is knowledgeable of what she really deserves in her life and does what she has to in order to attain that ideology.
The contrast between the Emily and her multiple secrets serve as the basis of the story. Emily and her father had believed themselves to be so much better and above others, as opposed to what they really were; snooty, arrogant and pompous. The constant feeling of never being able to achieve some sort of control over her personal life, especially when it came to romance, seemed to have caused her to become exceedingly desperate for human love. She longed for a lover so badly that even after she goes and murders Homer, due to her twisted idea that their “financial differences” were unideal, she still clings to his dead body.
Lucky for her, her aristocratic position allowed her to cover up the murder. Ironically, though, the story ends with Emily sentencing herself to total isolation from the community. Perhaps now she knows that by living her life as a life, she must accept the fact that she will remain alone, which seemed to be a decision displaying that she did have control of her life, after all. Instead, she chose to keep herself hidden behind the false persona that would keep her just as constricted as her life was when her father was still alive.