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In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," what can we infer about Miss Emily from learning who...

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kamra1995 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 3, 2012 at 11:57 PM via web

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In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," what can we infer about Miss Emily from learning who attends her funeral?

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 4, 2012 at 12:41 AM (Answer #1)

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Your original questions are interesting, but you need to ask question about Colonel Sartoris in a separate question.

Because the story actually begins with Miss Emily's death, we begin to get an impression of her from the first sentence:

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful attention for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house. . . .

Immediately, we understand that she has the curious label of a "fallen monument" and that there seems to be a gender-specific difference in the way townspeople viewed her.

When we later learn more about Miss Emily--that she is from the former aristocratic, wealthy stratum of society but who is now poor--we understand the meaning of "fallen monument."  To the men, many of whom were Confederate veterans, she must be respected because she represents something very important to them--the last vestige of a society that is now all but gone.  They respect her because she is from a leading pre-Civil War family of Jefferson, so they honor her position in society, if not the actual person.  On the hand, the women do not seem to have the same connection to her that the men have, so their attendance at the funeral is merely an exercise in curiosity to see how such a recluse lived.

What we infer about Miss Emily, I think, is that she was not loved or even liked by the town but was respected, to a degree, for her family's former position in the society of Jefferson, and she was also a mystery to the town.  The men, just as they had a duty to fight for their state during the Civil War, feel a duty to honor something that once was important in their lives--the society that Miss Emily represents--but, as we understand when we read the entire story--no person in the town could have had a personal relationship with Miss Emily, so the men are simply carrying out a duty not an act of friendship.  The fact that she was a mystery and not liked or loved is confirmed by women's curiosity--we hear no expression of regret, sympathy or sense of loss.

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