A Rose for Emily Essay
“Alive, Miss Emily had become a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894…” (Faulkner). William Faulkner is a Nobel Prize winner who has published 13 different novels and wrote numerous short stories. A Rose for Emily is Faulkner’s most famous short story because of its in depth reflection on a simply fascinating topic, life and death.
A Rose for Emily is about how a young beautiful woman goes from being well-known around town to never seen or heard from over the course of fifty years. The story really opens the reader’s eyes about diversity amongst people. Using reader response criticism, a reader can analyze A Rose for Emily using aspects of moral, anthropology, and action. The moral William Faulkner chose for this story was that it is important to forget about the past and move on in life. All of Miss Emily’s problems throughout the story revolve around her inability to move on. The problem with her taxes, the inability to properly bury her father, and the disappearance of Homer Barron are all caused by Miss Emily’s problem with clinging to the past.
A conversation about Miss Emily’s taxes between her and some townspeople shows that she is still living in the past: “‘I received a paper, yes,’ Miss Emily said. ‘Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff…I have no taxes in Jefferson.’ ‘But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see We must go by the–‘ ‘See colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson.’ ‘But, Miss Emily—’ ‘See Colonel Sartoris.
‘ (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.) ‘I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!’ The Negro appeared. ‘Show these gentlemen out (Faulkner).'” Miss Emily is shooing the townspeople away and claiming that she does not owe the town any taxes. She told them, to go talk to sheriff Sartoris, the former sheriff who has been dead for the past ten years.
Miss Emily is still trying to live in the days were it was okay for her to not pay taxes. This is one of the many instances where she couldn’t let go of the past. Miss Emily also had a hard time letting go of the person that was always there for her, her father: “Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body” (Faulkner).
Miss Emily refused to move on when her father died. She was holding the body trying to claim that he was still alive even though it was well known that he was dead. To hold on to a dead body and truly believe that the person is still alive is not healthy and shows true emotional issues. It is important to move on in life and to adjust to the current way things are. Miss Emily had a hard time doing this and it lead to her living a miserable live and suffering a lonely death.
Anthropology is also evident throughout the story. Anthropology is evident mainly through race and religion. All the people of the town follow the same religion and all have the same views or beliefs when it comes to religion. Religion was something that was taken very seriously throughout the town: “Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and bad example to the young people. Then men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister—Miss Emily’s people were Episcopal—to call upon her” (Faulkner). The nosy women of the town felt it was their duty to keep the religious tradition of the town strong.
They are upset with the fact that she is living with Homer Barron and they are not getting married. The universal religion across the town believed that you must get married if you are going to live together with someone. Race is also an important aspect of the story. At the time, blacks were not considered to be normal people. Blacks were property and they were not given any rights.
Black people were not even considered to have a name: “A deputation waited upon her, knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed since she ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier. They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust and disuse—a close, dank smell. The Negro led them into the parlor” (Faulkner). The servant for Miss Emily was black and was not called by his real name.
This shows how big of an issue race was at the time. Finally, there are actions that take place in the story that teach a lesson. Miss Emily’s decision making got worse and worse as the story went on. She never learned from her mistakes and she continued to go down the wrong path. Miss Emily had let herself go over the years.
At this point in the story, Miss Emily had decided to just give up on life in general: “When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and grayer until it attained and even pepper-and-salt iron-gray… (Faulkner). The last paragraph of the story sums up Miss Emily’s life perfectly by saying, “For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him. What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust” (Faulkner). This excerpt from the story talks about how the people of the town found the body of Homer Barron in Miss Emily’s house when she died.
Miss Emily had poisoned him so he could never leave her. Miss Emily had emotional issues and she had a fear of losing things that were important to her. Miss Emily could have found a much better solution to her problem. She could have asked for counseling and allowed people to help her get past her problems. A lot of people today have similar problems that Miss Emily had but they do not choose to go down the nasty path that Miss Emily went down.
To put things in perspective, Miss Emily was a beautiful, well-known woman who chose to go down the wrong path in life. This story can teach the reader that it is important to forget about the past and move on in life. The past is the past and there is nothing that can be done about it. A reader can also learn that it is important to get help in life if you need it. The story has the potential to open eyes about diversity amongst people. Using reader response criticism, a reader can analyze A Rose for Emily using aspects of moral, anthropology, and action.