"A Rose for Emily": Emily Grierson

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Julie Shaw
                Emily Grierson from William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” couldn’t accept death; she just could not believe it when those around her, particularly her loved ones, passed away. Emily’s denial of death has many causes and consequences. When her father died, it took three days and the intervention of the people of Jefferson for her to give up the body because she refused to believe he was dead. When the townspeople attempted to offer their condolences to Emily, as Faulkner says, “she told them her father was not dead.” After she murdered Homer to keep him near her, she didn’t, in her life accept his death and continued to have unnatural relations with his lifeless corpse.   Even ten years after the death of Colonel Sartoris, she denied his death because she had no concept of the passing of time.

She refused to acknowledge the passing of her loved ones; it stands to reason that she would not acknowledge the passing of time. Her ignorance towards the passage of time has a lot to do with her denial of death. When the Board of Alderman visited Emily to ask her to pay taxes, she exemplifies her denial of time by repeating, “See Colonel Sartoris” despite the fact that he had been dead for many years. Emily didn’t seem to realize just how much time had passed since she had last laid eyes on colonel Sartoris. This was probably mostly caused by the ostracism of the townspeople. Being an outcast from society probably not only made it hard for Emily to keep track of time, but also probably took a toll on her sanity.

The isolation wasn’t the only contributing factor toward Emily’s failing mental health. Insanity also ran in her family. She had a great aunt, Old Lady Wyatt who is referred to by Faulkner as having “finally gone completely out of her mind” and many critics speculate that her father may also have been out of his right mind. Many critics, such as Eric Knickerbocker believe that his relationship with Emily was incestuous. Emily’s...
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