In “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, the main character Emily Grierson is stuck living in the past within the isolated reality that she’s been forced into and that she herself created. Throughout the story, a major theme, (meaning what the story is about) is Emily’s resistance to change which leads to isolation. This Faulkner classic shows us how Emily became isolated because of her families, community and tradition. Emily’s father considered themselves superior than others in town. . He believed none of the young boys were suitable for Emily, and always chased them away.
Her father robs her from many of life’s necessities. She misses out on having friends, a boyfriend, being a normal woman and her ability to be happy. This gradually erodes Emily’s chances of ever being married. He controlled her completely until his death, and even continued to control her from beyond the grave . After he died, Emily couldn’t admit he was dead and kept the dead body for 3 days. . Not only does Emily want to hold on to her father’s legacy and exemptions, but she wants to hold on to his body–out of fear and denial. She feels protected by the name and reputation he affords her.
At the time, no one thought she was crazy. “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will” (Faukner 159) . By separating her so severely from the rest of the town when he was alive, going as far as to make sure she didn’t have any lovers or a husband created a lonely, loveless, isolated life. This short story took place in a southern town torn between the present and the past, post-civil and the newer generation (when the slavery era ended).
Her town was changing, becoming more modern day by day. They were paving the sidewalks and adding a new postal service. She didn’t want the numbers added on her house, didn’t reply to any of the sheriff letters of the tax notice that she claimed she was exempt of paying taxes. Her unwillingness to change after the civil war was one of the reasons she was so isolated. The narrator tells us twice that Miss Emily is similar to an idol, probably because she was raised to think she was above others, and others were raised to look up to her as well.
She was stuck with the mindset that she was better than others, even when the community was changing she believed that she didn’t have to obey the law. She also kept to herself and no one knew anything about her. According to Faulkner, the quote “…A note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin flowing calligraphy in faded ink…” shows me in a symbolic way, that Emily is stuck in time. The story of Emily is old and dated itself. The author uses the words archaic, calligraphy, and faded. It took me back in time while reading these words, which is exactly what Emily is.
Tradition controls the actions of both the town and Emily herself. “A Rose for Emily” captures the importance tradition holds for her Southern community. The Civil War was an issue of lifestyle. Southerners hung to the lifestyle they had, with the slaves. Tradition was the reason Emily didn’t pay her taxes. Her father was aristocracy and paid no taxes , therefore , Emily refused. When the slavery era passed, the South fell, the lifestyle was torn apart and the economy changed. Old-time families, like Emilie’s, lost their position with their income. Carpetbaggers penetrated the area, and the native Southerners felt overrun.
Because they could do so little, they clung to their standards of behavior. Faulkner states, “of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a northerner , a day laborer” demonstrating my point of the towns traditional behaviors . They were ashamed that emily was with someone who was not on her level and felt that she was betraying the town as a whole. These standards of behavior also controlled Emily’s mindset. It was also tradition that southern women were supposed to get married. Emily could have eventually married and been all right, but when the love of her life , Homer Barron comes into the picture, things change.
Homer never plans to stay anywhere, and Emily knows that she can’t have another man leave her ever again. So the loss of her father is what creates who she is and affects her decisions, to kill Barron. She poisons Homer so that he could be with her forever, and sleeps with his body at night. By clinging to tradition, Emily was unable to move on, which kept her living in the past. In “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, Emily Grierson’s life is a tragic example of the consequences of refusing to let go of the past, isolation. The first and last rose she ever got was on her casket, unfortunately.