William Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily” was originally published in the April 30, 1930, issue of Forum. It was his first short story published in a major magazine. A slightly revised version was published in two collections of his short fiction, These 13 (1931) and Collected Stories (1950). It has been published in dozens of anthologies as well. “A Rose for Emily” is the story of an eccentric spinster, Emily Grierson. An unnamed narrator details the strange circumstances of Emily’s life and her odd relationships with her father, her lover, and the town of Jefferson, and the horrible secret she hides. The story’s subtle complexities continue to inspire critics while casual readers find it one of Faulkner’s most accessible works. The popularity of the story is due in no small part to its gruesome ending.
Faulkner often used short stories to “flesh out” the fictional kingdom of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, for his novels. In fact, he revised some of his short fiction to be used as chapters in those novels. “A Rose for Emily” takes place in Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha. Jefferson is a critical setting in much of Faulkner’s fiction. The character of Colonel Sartoris plays a role in the story; he is also an important character in the history of Yoknapatawpha. However, “A Rose for Emily” is a story that stands by itself. Faulkner himself modestly referred to it as a “ghost story,” but many critics recognize it as an extraordinarily versatile work. As Frank A. Littler writes in Notes on Mississippi Writers, ‘‘A Rose for Emily’’ has been ‘‘read variously as a Gothic horror tale, a study in abnormal psychology, an allegory of the relations between North and South, a meditation on the nature of time, and a tragedy with Emily as a sort of tragic heroine.’’