In "A Rose for Emily," what does this quote mean, and what is its significance? "When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was...
all that was left to her, in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less."
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Before her father died, Emily lived with enough money to provoke people to resent her and her family for their haughty ways. Though her great aunt goes crazy, Emily and her father live as though they were still local nobility, and the townspeople think that "the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were." Emily, for example, appears to reject all the young men who court her, but when she is thirty, it is clear that perhaps not so many young men have actually appeared, as she couldn't have dismissed all of them. Then, when her father dies, she has nothing left. Rather than be jealous of Emily's noble past, the townspeople pity her present poverty, which puts her on the same level as everyone else. The significance of this quote is that it explains why the town is so indulgent towards Emily and why they don't force her to pay taxes. It also explains why the druggist sells her arsenic and why the town doesn't ask any questions when Homer Barron, her former boyfriend, disappears.
The Grierson family had once been a prominent one in Jefferson, and their house had been one of the finest in the town. But by the time of Emily's father's death, there was no family money left--only the old, crumbling house. Since the "Grierson's had always held themselves a little too high for what they really were," the townspeople had never really felt any pity for them. But now that the town knew that Emily was penniless, and that she was no longer bound by the iron hand of her father, the people of Jefferson felt that they could now feel sorry for her. Now that she had become "humanized," Emily was an equal to the rest of the townspeople: She, too, was now poor, and she would have to live the rest of her life with the financial uncertainties that other "paupers" endure.
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