Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner

William Faulkner's short story A Rose For Emily tells the tragic life and death of a social enigma. Faulkner begins the story after Emily has died and periodically jumps around within a 50 year time span. The townspeople of Jefferson go to her funeral, the men mostly out of respect for her revered family and the women out of curiosity to see if she was really dead. To them, Miss Emily had represented the ideal Southern belle. She was beautiful and was very high class. Faulkner then skips two years to when Miss Emily's father had died. She had loved him so much that she was unwilling to give his body over to the mortician. It takes three days before Emily concedes and gives up her father's body. Instead of believing Emily to be mentally ill, they feel sympathy for her.

After that, Colonel Sartoris comes to Emily and cancels her taxes because her house is so run down, it's not worth paying taxes on. After that, Miss Emily is rarely seen. Only her manservant is regularly seen through out town as he buys groceries. The next time they see her, Emily looks sick and gaunt. It is around then that Emily meets a man named Homer Barron who came from the North to work on building sidewalks. He became very popular in town and soon Miss Emily and him were often seen together. At first they were glad she finally had an interest in someone, though many thought she wouldn't take him seriously because he was from the North and of a lower class. Soon the townspeople believe that Emily will remain single and unmarried. They begin to pity her and poke fun at her behind her back. But Emily paid them no mind.

A year later, Emily goes to an apothecary and buys arsenic. She is even thinner than the last time they had seen her and her face was even more gaunt. When she was asked what she needed it for, Emily just ignored the druggist until he gave up and sold her the poison. The next day the town is convinced that she'll kill herself. They believe it would be best because some time earlier Homer had remarked that he liked men and that he was not a marrying man. But Emily doesn't kill herself and she begins to spend time with Homer once more. The town starts to believe it is a disgrace and have Miss Emily's kin come to live with her.

A week later, the townspeople found out that Emily had been to the jeweler's to buy a man's toilet set that had the initials H.B. in graved on each piece. They conclude that Emily and Homer are now married. So they are not surprised when Homer disappears. They believe he had gone to prepair for when Emily came to him, or he was waiting until Emily's family left. A week later they leave and Homer comes back within three days.

One evening Homer goes over to visit Emily, and that's the last time the town ever saw him. After that they barely saw Miss Emily, save for the occasional glances of her in the windows. Some time after, men are sent to her house because of a foul smell and they sprinkle lime to hide it, too scared to confront Emily.

When they see Miss Emily again, she's fat and her hair is beginning to gray. From then on, Miss Emily's front door remains closed off for about six or seven years, during which she gave china-painting lessons. But soon she quit giving lessons and her door remained closed for good. They only saw her manservant when he left for supplies or random glimpses of Emily through a downstairs window (she had blocked off the top part of her house.) And then she died in one of the downstairs rooms years later.

On the day of her showing, the curious townspeople explore her home. They wanted to explore the upstairs of her home, but out of respect, they had waited until she was buried to do it. When she finally was put into the ground, they broke down the door. The room was covered in dust and smelled terrible. There was a man's silver toilet set on the dressing table, along with a collar an tie. On a chair there was a suit, a pair of shoes, and a pair of socks. The man that owned them was on the bed. For a long time the townspeople just stood and stared at the dead man before one of them noticed the indentation of a head on the second pillow beside him. One of them picked up something from it and held it up for everyone to see. It was a gray strand of hair.


1) Do you think Emily ever regretted her decision to kill Homer?
2) In the story it is known that Emily's father drove away all of her suitors and that Homer was accused of being homosexual. What do you think made Emily kill Homer and then place him in her bridal bed?

1 comment:

Hannah K. 1-2 said...

1) As Emily was most likely mentally ill, I believe that she was only subconsciously guilty for her crime, and may have been punishing herself with the years of seclusion, with only Homer's body as company the majority of the time.
2) I think that if Emily was becoming somewhat of a social outcast, and had little prospect from other men, she may have killed Homer out of a desire to keep him for herself. Keeping him on her bridal bed seems symbolic of her wish for a married life with him.