Discuss “A Rose for Emily” through those words “dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse”. How do they contribute to theme?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One theme that I think you can successfully discuss in relation to these adjectives would be the decline of the Old South after the Civil War, which was a key theme in all of Faulkner's works. There are plenty of examples of how this theme is presented in "A Rose for Emily." A major one is how the aristocratic men of the Old South were incredibly chivalrous and women were depicted as unworldly, innocent and moral. Thus Colonel Sartoris engineers a story to explain why he is not charging taxes to Miss Emily. Note too a similar situation occurs concerning the smell that is developing around the house. The Judge, who is clearly from the same generation as the Colonel, prevents the issue from being raised, arguing that it would be completely wrong to accuse a woman of smelling bad.

But note how these quaint customs change. The word of Colonel Sartoris does not prevent the new generation from attempting to gather taxes from Miss Emily. Likewise it is the younger generation that has no problem in accepting Homer and his relationship with a member of a respected family whereas it is the older generation that finds this liaison unacceptable. The passing of time and the changes of the norms and values of the Old South are unavoidable in this work as Miss Emily eventually comes to inhabit a world to which she is a stranger. Some critics have gone as far to argue that the secret Miss Emily has guarded for so long is a metaphor for the general decadence of the Old South.

Thus, you could argue the list of adjectives you supplied could apply to the theme of the Old South and its decline and replacement with a very different set of values that isolates characters from Miss Emily's generation.


lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An interesting thing to consider is how each of those five adjectives reflects each one of the five sections of the story.  By the time the narrator delivers this line the only section left is the revelation of the story of Homer's dead body to be found in the upstairs room.  This quote seems to be a characterization summary of all of the antecdotes about Miss Emily that come before the final scene.

These adjectives all seem quite divergent from one another, so the question becomes, "How can one woman be all of these things at the same time?"  What does that fact alone reveal about her?  What does this summary reveal about the attitude of the narrator?  What truth (truthes) of life are revealed by this very complext character?  From your thoughts on these questions, you can create a thematic statement about this story that gives consideration to the above mentioned adjectives.

Read the study guide:
A Rose for Emily

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question