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A primary theme of "A Rose for Emily" is death. Emily doesn't grasp the reality of her father's death. His death sends her into physical, emotional, and financial decline that seems to cut her off from her extended family as much as it cuts her off from her town. The deaths that occur in the story relate to Emily's family position, her relationship to the town, and her personal life.
First in importance was the (1) death of her father who gave Emily both her "backbone" and her imprisonment. If his death had left her money as well as the family name, she might have eventually enjoyed her new place in town life. As it was, he only left her a house, a name, apparently enough to survive on until old age, and debt.The other family death was that of (2) old lady Wyatt, Emily's great-aunt, over whose estate Emily's father had a quarrel with the other family members.
Second in importance was the death of (3) her betrothed sweetheart Homer Barron, which is guessed at during the course of the story and unnervingly revealed at the close of the story. His death reflects in a troublesome way on Emily's mental and emotional stability, doesn't it? Emily's relationship to the town was affected by the death of (4) Colonel Sartoris who had invented an elaborate scheme to eliminated Emily's town property taxes on the Grierson house. Finally, (5) Emily herself dies and the male servant runs out the back door never to be seen again.
Death is prevalent, both literally and figuratively, in "A Rose for Emily." Five actual deaths are discussed or mentioned in passing, and there are obvious references to death throughout the story.
The text mentions the death of Emily, her father, Old Lady Wyatt (Emily's great-aunt), Colonel Sartoris, and finally, the discovery of a long strand of iron-gray hair lying on a pillow next to the moldy corpse entombed in Emily's boudoir.
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