Author biography The author of the short story A Rose for Emily is William Faulkner (born 1897). He came from a family from Southern United States , growing up in Oxford, Mississippi. During the First World War, he was part of the Canadian and Royal British Air Force. Most of the remainder of his life was spent writing novels and short stories in his farm in Oxford. But he did experience few short stints as a journalist and even as a scriptwriter in Hollywood. Faulkner’s characters are based on the Southern culture—either showing the growth of the Southern culture or its demise.
The most common theme in Faulkner’s works is the decay of the old South, usually represented by the Sartosis and Compson families’ downfall accompanied by the emergence of the new generation who contradict the traditions of the old families. Faulkner died on July 6, 1962. (The Nobel Foundation, 1949). Plot The story begins with, ironically enough, the death of the main protagonist, Emily Grierson. But the death of Emily is not the highlight of the short story, a twist in the end would prove to be more significant. After her father’s and her lover’s death, Emily isolated herself from the rest of the world, she never came out after their deaths, only her servant Tobe, was seen coming in and out of Ms. Emily’s house. Soon the officials of the town took notice that she was not paying her taxes which she believed that is non-existent because of some arrangement Colonel Sartosis did in the past. The officials could not do anything to make her pay, so she was left alone. Just as she was left alone when a strong rotting stench came out of her house. Only through a thief like attempt was the stench able to be remedied. The smell developed because the corpse of her death father remained in the house for quite a while.
It was a foreshadowing of things to come. She got involved with a popular man in town named Homer Barron but they never got married because Homer Barron “liked” men. The whole town thought that Emily was going to kill herself—she bought some Arsenic from the local druggist. Soon after she bought the poison, Homer disappeared but nobody suspected murder. A long time passes and Emily eventually died. To the shock of many, they found the corpse, or what remains of the body of Homer Barron in one of the rooms in Emily’s house. On the pillow, a strand of grey hair was found suggesting that Emily slept with the corpse. Characters Emily Grierson – Emily Grierson is the main protagonist of Faulkner’s short story. Born from a prominent family, she had trouble finding a husband because of her family thought that nobody was good enough to fit the family’s high standards. She was the town’s object of intrigue, everything she does and does not do is the town’s concern—how she handles her father’s death, her love life, and even her failure to pay taxes.
Emily was arguably insane, her refusal to accept death, like the death of her father and her murderous nature like what she did to Homer Barron might prove her insanity. Homer Barron – Homer Barron was a Yankee construction worker that came into town and was involved in a relationship with Emily. Everybody thought that he is going to marry Emily but her fondness of other men prevented him from doing so. As a result he was poisoned by Emily using the Arsenic that she bought from the local druggist. Colonel Sartosis – the mayor of the town at the time when Emily’s father died. He exempted Emily from taxes. He formulated a story that would hide the truth behind his decision to exempt Emily from taxes—Emily was exempted by the Colonel out of sympathy because the house was all that was left to Emily. Tobe – Tobe is the Negro servant of Emily, he barely talks, probably as a result of Emily’s silence in the house. But despite the silence between the master and the servant, Tobe remains loyal to Emily up until her death. When the town officials came to Emily’s house to collect taxes, Tobe diligently escorted them out of the house upon Emily’s request, and he is seen coming in and out of the house buying supplies for Emily. Themes One of the major and obvious themes in A Rose for Emily is death—death starts the short story, it is found in the middle and it ends the story. The first mention of death is the death of Emily herself, and through the flashbacks of the unnamed narrator, the death of other members of the family and Homer Barron’s death was mentioned.
The short story ends the same way it starts, and that is concluding the story of how Emily died. Another major theme is isolation. Emily was isolated all throughout the story. Only her relationship with Homer Barron was her intimate form of interaction to any of the other characters in the story. Only slight intrusions from the townsmen breaks her isolated life—the town officials who wanted to collect taxes, the men that broke inside the house to get rid of the smell, and the cousins that visited her after her father’s death. Even Tobe, the closest person, at least physically, to Emily, arguably never spoke to her in a non-professional manner. Irony and Foreshadowing What’s ironic with the story is Emily’s isolation. Through the narration, readers would conclude that she was the subject of intrigue within the town, just about anything she does is known to the townspeople, and yet she consciously isolates herself from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, foreshadowing is one element that Faulkner was not shy of using in this story. Emily’s refusal to accept the death of her father foreshadows her tendency for necrophilia.
The Nobel Foundation. Biography of William Faulkner. 1949. Retrieved 7 April 2009 From: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1949/faulkner-bio.html Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. From the Norton Introduction to Literature Web Site. Retrieved 7 April 2009. From: http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/litweb05/workshops/fiction/faulkner1.asp