A Rose for Emily
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is based around the telling of the life and habits of a fictional character, Emily Grierson. She is deeply disturbed and equally provocative in many ways. The narrator of the story as well as the many different townspeople give insight as to who Emily is, how she acts and what she does. Some literary analysts like Elizabeth Kurtz claim that the rose in the story, which is only given to Emily by the title, is a symbol for Emily’s denial of change (Kurtz). It is this denial of change that drives Emily to madness? Other superior analysts, like James M. Wallace, claim that none of the gossip in the story really matters, and people should only scrutinize the narrator. Faulkner himself was once quoted saying, “Given a choice between grief and nothing, I’d choose grief” (Famous Quotes). This statement is seen in the story on many occasions. Emily chooses the grieving for her father, her suitor, and even her taxes over the nothingness of living without them, which is very ironic. Emily chooses not to grieve for them but to let them live on as though nothing happened to them. She is as unchanging as the rose given to her by William Faulkner. Her habits and actions are totally bizarre. But this bizarre behavior through the scope of many different literary analyses can be given direct purpose and meaning. Emily is not just a woman driven to insanity or just a symbol of denial of change. Emily, like those old, strong plantations, is a thing of the past gone awry. She is a vestige, a symbol of a past that will not return. She is a fallen monument for that same reason: All that defined her and put her in the pedestal of Old Southern magnificence is now gone forever. She is seen as a spectacle of the town and she is unable to move on from it, yet admired and pondered over. Poor Emily represents the death of that way of life. Firstly, Emily denies change in several significant ways. There is the matter of the taxes, the death of her father and the death of Homer Baron. She is told by the city councilmen that she is to pay taxes, but her response is, “I have no taxes in Jefferson, Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves.” (Faulkner) Emily claims, so strongly, that she does not pay taxes in the city because of a standing order that was given by a man whom she knows to have been dead for over 10 years. Faulkner sets the tone of the entire story just by starting with Emily’s strong objection to the death of Colonel Sartoris. Next, there is the issue of her father. When the townspeople go to the house of Emily to collect the body of her father, Emily forces them out by denying that her father ever died. She insists “My father is not dead” (Faulkner) as she tries to hold on to him for as long as possible. This shows that Emily is afraid of being alone. She tried to convince herself that her father hadn’t died so that she could live on with him in her life. This way she would not have to deal with losing him or with the change that would follow. A burial would have been too final for Emily. The burial would have forced her to see that her father is dead. As with the taxes, Emily chose to grieve over her father, and live without him, rather than to accept the change in her life. In addition to some of the main denials, there were many subtle denials of change such as: her denial of the city putting numbers over her house and putting in a mail box, and the archaic paper that she wrote on with the faded ink and calligraphy. While these symbols are relatively small and subtle, they fit right into the tone of the story. Emily is so afraid of change that she can’t imagine anything in her life changing in that way. She denies change in the town, and even in her personal life. But perhaps the most glaring denial of change is her murdered husband. Only at the very end of the story does the...
Bibliography: Web. 25 September 2013.
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