In the story "A Rose for Emily," what does Emily's father's potrait represent?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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We get a good glimpse of both Emily and her father in chapter 2, paragraph 25 of the story A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner. It reads,

...Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door

This description is important first because it describes the Griersons physically back when they were a well-to-do and stable family. Second, the description aids in understanding the influence that Emily's father exerted over her.

Here we see a small and seemingly-feeble young lady at the mercy of a big, controlling man. The phrase "clutching a whip" is allegorical to the power that he had over Emily's life. As we know, he would not allow Emily to accept any gentlemen callers because none of them were good enough, in his opinion. So strong was the dominance of Emily's father that she could not even accept his death even three days after the fact.

However, what is most interesting is that the townsfolk narrator agrees in that, once Mr. Grierson died, Emily began to spiral down because she had suddenly become a nobody.

When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized.

To say that Emily became "humanized" after her father's death is a big deal. It is a basic statement that declares how remote her father had made her. Therefore, we can conclude that the general consensus was that Miss Emily was absorbed both physically and mentally by her father to the point of losing herself, and possibly her sanity, as a result of her father.

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