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Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"
William Faulkner's 1930 short story "A Rose for Emily" is about the sudden death of a town's most prominent old woman; the last remaining person who had experienced the American South before the American Civil War. She had the memories within her of a period of white domination and black subjection, which is mirrored in the relationship she had with her handyman. Money was power. Even members of the same racial profile were broken down into levels of power based upon the amount of money that they had which creates conflict. Emily's father was a powerful man and even though she herself had not accomplished anything in her life, she still was revered because of her bloodline. Emily's story is one of conflict: conflict with her father, conflict with her lover, but more than anything else, she is in conflict with the new generation.
This thesis of the story is how the deceased woman was not able to adapt to the realities of a changing south. It is about Emily's slow separation from the world of her neighbors and the reasons why she chose to finish her life surrounded by her memories. According to literary critic Ray West (1999):
Emily is portrayed as 'a fallen monument,' a monument for reasons which we shall examine later, fallen because she has shown herself susceptible to death (and decay) after all. In the mention of death, we are conditioned (as the psychologist says) for the more specific concern with it later on (page 44).
Unable to accept the accepted truths of her community in its new sense and the new psychology of the region, she instead chose to completely retire from the world and into the home of her youth. On a larger scale, Emily Grierson's story serves as a symbol for the changing of time in the old South and the reluctance of past figureheads to make way for the young and the new regimes that they represent.
The first indication that Miss Emily is living in the past is when the sheriff comes to see her about not paying her taxes. Although everyone else within the community is required to pay personal income and property taxes, Emily Grierson has refused. Under the old guard, the leadership of men like her father, she had never had to pay the taxes and didn't see why she should now just because there was a new political leadership in the town. Her invocation of the name of the deceased Colonel Sartoris, her father, effectively ends the men's search for payment. Colonel Sartoris was a man who was to be feared, just as any man of money and power within the South before the War would have been. His power when he was alive was absolute. For example, he was able to pass a law which demanded that all negro women wear aprons while on the street. Sartoris's power allowed for him to perpetuate the prejudicial attitudes of the south even after the war had ended (Volpe 2004,-page 100). The only defense Emily has is the power she had as the colonel's daughter. It is enough to stop the men from seeking her money but not enough to stop further change in the community.
Emily Grierson has always been able to defeat anyone who would dare to challenge her position above the other citizens of the town. "She vanquished them & #8230;just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell" (Faulkner 2011,-page 537). The smell they are referring to in this instance foreshadows the end of the story when the reader learns that the sweetheart who supposedly deserted Emily so many years ago has actually been killed by her. The acrid smell of his decomposition can be smelled from the street and it has come to the attention of the police. Being Miss Emily, however, she can dismiss their inquiries using the authority of her heritage. The men themselves, rather than confront the premier member of the town citizenry, perform the task of deodorizing the outside of Emily's home themselves (Faulkner 2011,-page 438). There is strong symbolism in this episode. More than the actual body which is decaying in her home, Emily's house is…[continue]
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