Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Miss Emily’s story is certainly bizarre, suspenseful, and mysterious enough to engage the reader’s attention fully. She is a grotesque, southern gothic character whose neurotic or psychotic behavior in her relationships with her father, her lover, and her black servant may elicit many Freudian interpretations. For example, her affair with Homer Barron may be seen as a middle-aged woman’s belated rebellion against her repressive father and against the town’s burdensome expectations. That William Faulkner intended her story to have a much larger dimension is suggested by his choice of an unnamed citizen of Jefferson to tell it.
The narrator never speaks or writes as an individual, never uses the pronoun “I,” always speaks as “we.” As representative of the townspeople, the narrator feels a compulsion to tell the story of a woman who represents something important to the community. Black voices are excluded from this collective voice as it speaks out of old and new generations. Colonel Sartoris’s antebellum generation is succeeded by one with “modern ideas”: “Thus, she passed from generation to generation.”
Even though Miss Emily was a child during the Civil War, she represents to generations past and present the old Deep South of the Delta cotton-plantation aristocracy. She is a visible holdover into the modern South of a bygone era of romance, chivalry, and the Lost Cause. Even this new South, striving for a prosperity...
(The entire section is 812 words.)
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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 story begins in section one with the narrator’s recollections of Emily’s funeral. He reminisces that it is Emily’s father’s death that prompts Colonel Sartoris to remit her taxes ‘‘into perpetuity.’’ This leads to the story of the aldermen attempting to collect taxes from Emily. The narrator’s description of Emily is that of a drowned woman: ‘‘She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue.’’ One of the reasons the aldermen are bold enough to try to collect Emily’s taxes is that Colonel Sartoris has been dead for a decade. Of course, this doesn’t discourage Emily—she expects the men to discuss the matter with him anyway. When the narrator returns to the subject of the death of Emily’s father, he reveals that Emily at first denies that he is dead. She keeps his body for three days before she finally breaks down and allows her father to be buried. This scene foreshadows the grisly discovery at the end of the story. The narrator also mentions the madness and death of old lady Wyatt, Emily’s great-aunt. 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 suggests that Emily is a...
(The entire section is 948 words.)