A rose for Emily: story vs. film Analysis

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William Faulkner’s short story, A Rose for Emily, is a dark tale of a young girl damaged by her father that ended up leaving her with abandonment issues. Placed in the south in the 1930’s, the traditional old south was beginning to go under transition. It went from being traditionally based on agriculture and slavery to gradually moving into industrial and abolition. Most families went smoothly into the transition and others, like the Griersons, did not. Keeping with southern tradition, the Griersons thought of themselves as much higher class then the rest of their community. Emily’s father found no male suitable for his daughter and kept her single into her thirties. After her fathers death Miss Emily was swept off of her feet by a foreman from the north, named Homer Barron. After spending some time with each other, Emily knew he was the one. Even if Homer wanted to leave, Emily was not going to let another man escape from her life.

The story A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner, was adapted in 1983 by Lyndon Chabbak; the film left out added emphasis on southern gothic features that add to the traditional elements in the story. When Emily Griersons father passes away, Colonel Sartoris claimed that the Griersons would not have to pay taxes any more for her father gave the town a great sum of money and this was the Colonels way of repaying him. The narrator said, “Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily’s father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.” (Faulkner I).

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Only a man from the Colonel’s generation could have made up a rule like that because they did not have very much regulation back then. Women were still looked at as inferior to men and they needed to be taken care of. Emily’s father left her with nothing so she had no choice but to stick to the Colonels word as well. When the more modern generation came, post offices, sheriff’s offices, and many other modern town organizations developed in Jefferson. They sent Miss Emily a couple of tax notices only to receive the same blank tax notice in return. A few of the members of the Board of Aldermen went to visit her to discuss her paying her overdue taxes. In a stubborn tone, Miss Emily simply told them, “I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves. “(Faulkner I). This was one of the signals that the times were changing. In Lyndon Chubbuck’s adaptation, there was not a huge scene that dealt with the tax problems.

It was not as big of a conflict as it was for the story. The board members never come to visit Miss Emily regarding her taxes. It was mentioned in the film after Emily stopped allowing visitors or children to come paint china with her. The neighbor described her last few days/months alive as, “…and on occasion we heard music, saw shadowy shapes parading pass the window, looking or not looking at us, we could never tell which. It became a gloomy house…mean while, her taxes were never collected ”(Chubbuck). The taxes would not get returned back to the tax collectors, they would just get placed on the counter by the door, increasing the pile of envelopes.

When the towns people tried to force Emily to pay her taxes, it showed the beginnings of the town slowly starting to industrialize. Colonel Sartoris was not around so he could tell them; he had been deceased for many years. Emily’s non-compliance with the law symbolized her stubbornness to not change with they new upcoming ways. Then Homer Barron came to town and there was a glimpse of hope that Emily would maybe find a partner and love. For over thirty years Emily’s father was constantly chasing away any men that were trying to court Emily. Her father’s death left her with the freedom to finally meet men but also left her alone with nothing but the house. In that generation, it was unusual for women to be single in her thirties. When the town called in a construction company from up north to pave the sidewalks, they brought Homer Barron with them. He soon met Emily and they started spending some time with each other. The towns people were startled because he was a Yankee construction worker but happy because she had possibly found someone. In Faulkner’s version, after seeing the two around town, gossip started to form about the two lovebirds.

The narrator described it as, “Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people. The 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 IV). It was not socially acceptable to spend so much time with someone if they were not going to get married. It was against the social norm of the community. The pastors’ wife wrote Emily’s family in Alabama and once the cousins left Emily’s house, the rumor was that they were married. Then Homer left town, then returned to Emily only never to be seen again. In the movie adaptation, there was no pressure from the community to marry Homer. It was not made apparent that it was against the social norm to spend extended amount of time with someone without being married.

After Emily purchased the mans silver toilet set and monogramed under shirt for Homer, they assumed they were married, The narrator described him like, “Homer Barron, a willing and unfailing sport, even if an unreliable Yankee, we were sure they were to be married” (Chubbuck). The film left out the socially unacceptable aspect of sleeping with someone before marriage because it happened after her wedding. In Faulkner’s version the towns people gossiping about them showed that the town still kept some traditional ways. Miss Emily just did not seem to care. After they were married, Homer vanished and was never seen by anyone again. No one suspected Emily of killing him; they just thought Homer left. The old pity for Miss Emily returned. After Homers disappearance, Emily barley left the house until it was finally the Negro who only left to retrieve groceries and other necessities. The community lost touch with Miss Emily for a very long time.

Miss Emily quietly died with barley any notice to the community. However, all of them took much attention to it. She was viewed as Faulkner described it as, a fallen monument” (A Rose for Emily I). Emily was the last standing symbol of how the old community used to live like. The whole town showed up for her funeral. In the movie adaptation, all of Emily’s Alabama cousins show up to the funeral as well. They had a small ceremony in the house with the room crowded with people. The narrator said, “ They buried her in the old city cemetery, even then abandoned, among the rows of both Union and Confederate dead who fell at the Battle of Jefferson.“ (Chubbuck). She was buried among the soldiers who fought for the confederate and the union. She was viewed as a symbol of the old tradition, so it was fitting to place her there. In Faulkner’s version, there was more of a celebration of her life.

The narrator described her funeral as “and the very old men –some in their brushed Confederate uniforms–on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.” (Faulkner V). It was a reason to celebrate the last of an era. There was more of a celebration and respect of her life in the book that the movie just did not emphasize as much which took away from the huge southern gothic element.

With the lack of details on some of the southern elements of the story; both versions end in the same creepy way. After they bury Miss Emily, the cousins go up to the room that she had locked for over 40 years. They busted down the door and found the remains of Homer Barron lying on the bed with a single strand of gray hair lying on the pillow beside it. Emily could not stand to have another man leave her so she made sure Homer did not. The film adaptation was a very good version but left out the needed southern influence that emphasized the traditions. Even with those exceptions, the film was a good remake and covered the story line and conflicts well.

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A rose for Emily: story vs. film Analysis. (2016, Jun 17). Retrieved from


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