Rose for emily

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The story I chose for my wiki is "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner.  I think that the town's feelings toward an older, believed to be crazy, woman who is obviously part of the town's long history, weighs in on the good side of love.  The towns actions of giving the woman a tax free pass for so many years helps to show this love for her and the roots she has within the town's history.  The woman is a recluse of sorts, not being seen in over 10 years, that the town keeps trying to guess what is going on with her.  The town's curiosity shows that they are still all in love with her and her family in one way or another.

Rose for emily 2

The story starts out telling of Miss Emily Grierson death.  The entire town shows up for the funeral, mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house.  The house which no one had entered in close to ten years.  The author then goes into back story of Miss Emily's life leading up to the end.  Back in 1894, then mayor, Colonel Sartoris, remitted her taxes because of her "hereditary obligation" stemming back to the death of her father.  Miss Emily's father had loaned the town a large sum of money, so the mayor thought this would be a good was of repaying the family name.  As the towns new leaders took over with the passing of the Colonel, they continuously try to have Miss Emily resume payments on her taxes.  The leaders go so far as paying Miss Emily a visit.  When she shows herself in the parlor, she tells the men "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." (Sec.1, p.324 paragraph 8)  As the men press the issue, Miss Emily begins to get irritated with their constant badgering and has her servant show the men out.  Little did Emily know, but Colonel Sartoris had passed away almost 10 years ago.

The story continues on to tell of how thirty years ago she had run off the leaders before them when they came around, not about taxes, but about the smell.  Two years after her fathers death and a short time after her sweetheart vanished, people started complaining about a dreadful smell emanating from her home.  The women in town believed it to be from the fact that Miss Emily hadn't been seen at all and only her man servant was seen coming and going with food.  When one of her neighbors made a formal complaint to the judge, Judge Stevens told her "It's probably just a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard." (sec.2 p.324 paragraph 20)  The Judge continued to get complaints, so action was taken.  Judge Stevens, the mayor at the time, decides to have lime sprinkled along the foundation of her home in the middle of the night.  Rather than bother a little old woman that is not very receptive to visitors anyway.  Within time, the odor dissipates  The townspeople begin to feel sorry about her, remembering how her great aunt had succumbed to insanity.  The day after her fathers death, the women of the town began to offer their condolences to Miss Emily.  For three days she tried to convince the women, and herself that her father was not dead.  After that third day she breaks down and admits he has passed and turns over the body for burial.

In the third section of the story, Faulkner writes of a long illness that Emily suffers after the death of her father.  In that summer, the town contracted work to pave the sidewalks.  The contract went to a northerner, Homer Barron.  At first, the ladies in town were happy that Emily was seen taking buggy rides through town with Homer on Sunday afternoons.  Then disbelief settled in, "Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer." (sec.3 p.325 paragraph 31)  This causes scandal and intrigue in the town and increases the pity felt for Emily.  They all feel that she is forgetting her family pride and becoming involved with a man beneath her status.  Faulkner uses the French term, "noblesse oblige" which is a term describing the obligations and responsibilities of a member of the upper class. (sec.3 p.325 paragraph 31)  As her involvement with Homer continues, Emily's reputation is further compromised when she goes into the local drug store looking to buy some arsenic.  The pharmacist questions her as to her necessity of the poison as required by the law.  Miss Emily just stares him down and the next thing you know, she is home opening a box labeled arsenic "for rats." (sec.3 p.325 paragraph 41)

Fearing the worst case scenario, the townspeople hear of the arsenic purchase and fear that Emily will use the arsenic to kill herself.  Her potential marriage to Homer seems increasingly unlikely, despite the continued Sunday ritual of buggy rides.  Some of the ladies in town were heard saying that seeing them together was a "disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people." (sec.4 p.326 paragraph 44)  The women went the the minister and insisted that he call on her.  The minister never said what happened and will never go back to that house.  The next Sunday, Emily and Homer were out in the buggy again.  The ministers wife took it upon herself to write a letter to Emily's cousins to explain what was going on.  The two cousins arrived for an extended stay.  Gossip spread through town of Emily's purchase of silver toiletries monogrammed with Homer's initials, which could only mean that the marriage was back on.  Emily also purchased a complete outfit for a man, including a nightshirt.  The town was convinced that Emily and Homer were married.  Shortly after the cousins arrived, Homer was gone.  It was assumed that he had left to prepare for Emily's move up north, or to get away from her intrusive relatives.   Once the cousins left, Homer returned.  He was seen entering Emily's home one evening and never seen again after that.  Holed up in the house for several years, Emily gains weight and turns very gray.  Except for an occasional lesson she gives on China painting, her door remains closed to outsiders.  Every year the tax bill comes, and every year Emily ignores it.  She eventually closes off  the top floor of the house.  Every now and again, someone would catch a quick glimpse of Emily sitting in her window.  Nothing had been heard from her until her death at age seventy-four.

In the final section of the story, when Emily dies, only the women of the town, town elders and her two cousins attend her service in the parlor of her home.  After some forty years,  the door sealing the upstairs room was finally broken down by the townspeople.  They find the room frozen in time, waiting for the wedding.  One the bed was Homer's body, stretched out and decaying.  The onlookers in the room also noticed an indentation on the pillow next to Homer.  In that indentation was one long strand of Emily's gray hair.  

Although the first reaction to the story might be one of horror and disgust for Emily's actions, Faulkner makes the story too intriguing to stop reading.  The suspense and chronological events help show Miss Emily's strength of purpose, her pride, her reclusivness and lessens the horror of her actions.  Therefore, the love portrayed in this story are that of the "Good Love"

About the Author

William Faulkner was born and raised in Oxford, Mississippi in 1897.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949.  Faulkner is known for his innovative use of language.  Many of his characters have no formal education, but they speak and think in a highly stylized english that gives them consistent lyric authenticity.   He passed away in 1962.


Works Cited

"A Rose for Emily"  Faulkner, William 1932  Page 323.   Literature; Craft and Voice 2nd ed.  Delbanco,Nicholas and Cheuse, Alan

"A Rose for Emily Book Cover" Image.  Google Search.  November 17, 2013. 

"William Faulkner" Image. Google search. Nov. 17, 2013