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In "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, Emily Grierson's story is set during the...

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nhl123 | Student, Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted September 15, 2013 at 11:19 PM via web

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In "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, Emily Grierson's story is set during the period in which the old, artistocratic South was giving way to a more commerical society. What are some passages in the story that point to changes in the economic and social structure?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 16, 2013 at 1:46 AM (Answer #1)

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Poor Miss Emily. In "A Rose for Miss Emily" by William Faulkner, she is a Southern woman who lives in a Southern town, but it is a time and a place where everything is changing around her and she does not know how--or simply refuses--to change.

Miss Emily lives in the house her father left her.

It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps--an eyesore among eyesores.

Clearly she is an anachronism in this rapidly modernizing world. We have few descriptions of Miss Emily's clothing, but what we do have depicts her as an aging and outmoded Southern dame who is horribly misplaced in the modern world. 

The makeup of the town leadership is also changing. People like Colonel Sartoris and the Judge are being replaced by "the next generation, with its more modern ideas. When the town leaders receive complaints about a smell emanating from Miss Emily's house, they are divided about how to deal with it. 

That night the Board of Aldermen met--three graybeards and one younger man, a member of the rising generation. "It's simple enough," he said. "Send her word to have her place cleaned up. Give her a certain time to do it in, and if she don't...."

"Dammit, sir," Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"

We know that the older councilmen win, and they all go through a rather comic midnight farce during which they sneak around Miss Emily's house spreading lime to dispel the stench.

One more indicator that life is changing is the arrival of the Northern carpetbaggers who come down to help reconstruct the cities of the South. Among them is Homer Barron. Ironically, Miss Emily's rather scandalous relationship with him is the one area in which she not only displays modern thinking, but she actually acts in a much more modern way than the townspeople are prepared to deal with, at least from her. And of course what she does to Homer Barron is the height of tragic modernity.

Sources:

Lori Steinbach

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