Culture and Identity in “a Rose for Emily”

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Critic James H. Picker once wrote, “To classify, to regard fiction as an object can be taken apart and then put back together, is only one way to approach and participate in the work of literature; but it is not the only way. Once students grasp this truth, literature becomes dynamic, alive and ‘available”. In the short story, “A Rose for Emily”, writer William Faulkner uses plot, character and setting to demonstrate Emily’s refusal to transition into the “New South”.

“A Rose for Emily”, takes place in southern United States and starts off when she dies in the early 20th century and goes back to her life in the late 19th century leading the reader to her demise. Emily Grierson comes from a traditional southern aristocratic family. Her house “…was a big squarish frame that was once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies… but the garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated… Miss Emily’s house left lifting its stubborn and decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores.” Like her house, Emily’s physical appearance had decayed and so had her soul. The house where Emily hides herself away for years is a representation of the “Old South”, what Emily was raised in and the neighborhood represents the change to the more modern, “New South”.

Throughout the story, it is apparent that Emily has issues with letting things go. This is evident when her father dies and she refuses to accept the fact that her father is dead, confining his corpse to her home for three days. The people of the town finally convince her to give up his body for burial after much complaint. Emily is unwilling to let go of the past, and tries to keep hold of everything in the past that remains. She is a product of the Old South and her aristocratic values; she does not take the transition to the New South well. According to Colonel Sartoris, Emily believes her father made a deal with the town government so he would not...
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