“A Rose for Emily” written by William Faulkner, tells of the death of Emily Grierson; typical of his works, Faulkner uses the setting in this story as a miniature of the south in which he explores the “lost era of southern grandeur represented by Emily’s house, the last vestige of the gone times” (SparkNotes). The very strand of hair, ‘iron-grey,’ is a symbol of the older life where one is left to decay and languish (SparkNotes).
The narrator takes us back into the life of Emily in relation to the town she lived in an effort to give readers what led to Emily dying alone in a country where one’s business seems to be everyone else’s in the town.
The story is told from the point of view of an unnamed narrator since he/she is not really known, and we can see how the author hides behind ‘we,’ from where we infer that the author probably is representing the ‘collective voice of the town’ (SparkNotes). The main reason for using this narrator instead of Emily herself to tell the story is that Emily is dead by the time the story is being told. But also because even if Emily were alive, having locked herself out of the world, it is not expected that she would talk to anyone about herself.
In the end, although Emily is not a friend to anyone, she is not an enemy to anyone either; probably, the people have only stayed away because she has stayed away from the people (123HelpMe). Not because she hates them, but perhaps as a reflection of her struggle with reality, she lost hope in the face of a new world against the dead ‘good’ times.
Besides Emily, Faulkner uses a number of characters to drive the plot of the story; one such crucial character is Homer Baron, who is Emily’s beau (SparkNotes). The townspeople do not trust or like him because he is a ‘common’ northerner, and also for his outings with Emily (SparkNotes). Homer’s death is foreshadowed in a number of ways, and even before the door is broken down, the reader already expects to find him dead.
For instance, there is the stench, the ‘odor of death,’ emanating from Miss Emily’s mansion after his disappearance (OpPapers). The townspeople resort to sprinkling lime around the mansion in the hopes that it will contain the smell. The smell takes another week or two, “longer than a snake,” as the judge claims would, eventually, Homer’s corpse is found in Emily’s house (OpPapers).
In spite of this story grimness, it is not entirely free of some sense of humor; for instance, Emily’s belief in herself as the ‘mighty and high Grierson,’ considering the fact that she is a dying recluse, is in a sense laughable (eNotes). And the very image of Emily’s relatives in Alabama rushing to her for they have heard of her association with the “common Homer” is also humorous, perhaps even strange (eNotes).
This effort at humor is perhaps a reflection of Faulkner’s need to downplay the overall grimness of the story of Emily, and is also, in a sense, a reflection of Faulkner’s sympathy for Emily. This sympathy is symbolically implied in the title. During an interview, Faulkner explains that the use of the title ‘Rose,’ in spite of the fact that there is really no rose for Emily in the story, is a symbol of pity and salute to one woman who has gone through an irrevocable tragedy, and as such deserves being handed a rose (Shmoop University Inc). Personally, and to an extent, Emily also earns my sympathies as a reader.
eNotes. “Does the story seem to you totally grim, or do you find any humor in it?” 2011. Web.
OpPapers. “A Rose for Emily: Foreshadowing.” 2011. Web.
Shmoop University Inc. “A Rose for Emily: Title.” 2011. Web.
SparkNotes. “A Rose for Emily.” 2011. Web.