In the short story “A Rose for Emily”, written by William Faulkner, the negative impact of Emily’s upbringing by an overprotective father, leads to incredible pattern in her life and the obvious mental illness that takes over as she not so graciously ages. While written in five sections, the first and last section is written in present time, and the three middle sections in past tense. To set the stage for Emily’s drastic transformation from young girl to elderly woman, Faulkner uses characterization, setting and narration to show Emily’s lost state of mind and her desire to find and keep love at all cost as.
Although the story starts out with the funeral of Miss Emily Grierson, we are immediately shown her stubbornness when it comes to paying her taxes and her denial that she owes anything. While the townspeople readily admit they feel sorry for Emily, they were also consumed by her every movement. She starts out as a beautiful young woman courted by many, but ends up “a small, fat woman in black…her skeleton was small and spare” (Faulkner, Section 2).
It has been written that “A Rose for Emily” is “a tragic tale of a woman’s noble but doomed effort to resist the forces of time” (Sullivan). She is sheltered by her father as she grows up, which leads to her reclusiveness, lack of friendships and her inability to live a happy, healthy life. It is apparent that she is a product of her environment. When she is finally hit with the realization that her father is dead, she refuses to let them take his body until “just as they were about to resort to law and force” (Faulkner, Section 2).
Her inability to let go is once again apparent when she kills Homer Barron with arsenic because he did not want to marry her. We are left with the thought that Emily slept next to him after he was deceased even though it was at her own hands that she took his life. There is no happy median in the story; her father loves her too much and smothers her, while Homer cannot commit to loving her enough to marry her. The setting of the story takes place in Faulkner’s make believe city of
Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi. In a house that was once owned by the late Elder Grierson. When the townspeople finally enter the room upstairs that “no one had seen in forty years” (Faulkner, Section 5), they are stunned by the condition of Emily’s once grandeur house. Furthermore, the house that once set on the “most select street” (Faulkner, Section 1) was now surrounded by garages, cotton gins and was the only house left on the street.
Although, once described as “a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies” (Harris), it is apparent that along with the family name, the family home had been on a downward spiral for many years. Although the story is told in first person, the narrator of the story is never named but it appears that the story could be told by any of the townspeople. It has been said that the narrators “function is to be a window pane or mirror upon the life of Miss Emily Grierson” (Sullivan).
The narrator often uses a negative attitude toward both women and the African American race, furthermore making many statements in the short story that would not be acceptable in our society today. From “the female blacks in this town are not allowed out on the streets without aprons” (Faulkner, Section 1) to “it’s probably just a snake or rat that nigger of hers killed” (Faulkner, Section 2), these statements are a testament to the day in age that the story was written. In Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose for Emily” the only things that Emily love, are taken from her, leading to insanity that consumes her life.
From the beautiful young girl that is courted by many, to an old woman that is physically and mentally ill, Emily lives a life of desperation and loneliness. The setting of the story takes place in small town America in the early 1900’s and while the Grierson house is the main location, it not only provides the back drop for the story, it almost gives you the smell and morbid feel of the house and characters portrayed. The narrator takes us through the many challenges in Emily’s life, to the ultimate crime of murder, which is downplayed by the facts surrounding her own death.
This short story is full of characterizations, narrative visuals and a setting of a morbid tale that goes on for many years.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily. ” Booth, Alison and Kelly J. Mays. The Norton Introduction to Literature. New York : W. W. Norton Company, Inc. , 2010. 391-398. Short Story. Harris, Paul A. “In Search of Dead Time: “A Rose for Emily”. ” KronoScope 7. 2 (2007): 169-183. Sullivan, Rose. “The Narrator in “A Rose for Emily”. ” The Journal of Narrative Technique 1. 3 (1971). Document.