Do you think the pressure and judgment of her local community pushed Emily to a breaking point in "A Rose for Emily"?Do you think the pressure and judgment of her local community pushed Emily to a...

Do you think the pressure and judgment of her local community pushed Emily to a breaking point in "A Rose for Emily"?

Do you think the pressure and judgment of her local community pushed Emily to a breaking point in "A Rose for Emily"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There seems to be very little textual evidence in "A Rose for Emily" to support a conjecture about Emily's reaction to the community or as to whether she perceived them as pressuring and judging her. The town council did perturb her, yes, by trying to get her taxes from from her, but they failed: Her pressure and judgment toward them vanquished them. The community did interfere when she was first consorting with Homer, but it could be argued that if Emily did have a "breaking point" at which she succumbed to the community's perceived judgment and pressure, that point very much preceded her encounter with Homer.

Emily is seen as though through a veil in the narrative of "A Rose for Emily." The reader is told about how the town perceived Emily, thought of her, reacted to her, in some ways revered her but very seldom got to encounter Emily in person. In this way, the reader's experience parallels the townspeople's experience for they rarely encounter Emily in person either. Because the focalizing perspective is that of the townspeople (or town spokesperson) looking in at Emily's life as though through this veil, it is the town's perceptions, thoughts and feelings that are predominantly presented:

-the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house
-It was a big, squarish frame house
-invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss -Emily's father had loaned money
-After her father's death she went out very little
-four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars
-Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped,

You can see from this collection of random quotes, that the reader learns about Emily through the focalizer of the town's perspective. One thing we know about the town's perspective is that after Emily's father's death, they collectively took pity on her: "At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized." Another thing is that after her father's funeral, which she denied the need of for three days, "She was sick for a long time." We also know that the town had compassion on her: "We did not say she was crazy then."

While the interaction between the town and Emily gets more complicated as time goes on--there was the china-painting lessons, there was the uncontrollable stench from her yard, there was the request of payment of taxes, there were her indecorous outing with Homer, there was the purchase of rat poison--there is no material change in the town's tone toward Emily; there were a lot of questions asked and a lot of eyebrows raised but no real change in respectful puzzled tone.

Since these are the things that we know from the text--and things we can't know form the veiled text--it seems reasonable to say that there is no evidence that the town judged or pressured Emily and that therefore there is no point at which the town's pressure and judgment caused her to break. As suggested by the ironic statement "We did not say she was crazy then," if Emily had a breaking point (and one must suppose she did), it was well before her fling with Homer and the town had nothing to do with it.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not believe the pressure of the local community pushes Emily to a breaking point.  If anything, it may be because Emily's father is so strict about who she is allowed to consider as an appropriate husband.

Certainly there is pressure from the community, but Emily is not new to the expectations of the town.  She was born into her social status within the community.  She is, after all, her father's daughter.  The way she acts with Toby shows us that she is comfortable in that house, giving orders and expecting them to be followed.  She also shows this stubbornness in refusing to pay taxes because she feels she is above it.  The fact that she has lost touch with the passage of time is obvious in this situation.

My concern is more for the fact that Emily is forced to live under her father's thumb, socially.  After he passes away, she is afforded freedom to do as she chooses, but has not had the opportunity prior to this point to try it out, and she is not young. This is what I believe "throws her for a loop." Used to having her own way in most things, but no knowing how to force her sweetheart to stay, she resorts to the unthinkable.  (This is a great example of the macabre: perfect as Halloween approaches.)

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As I recall, insanity ran in Miss Emily's family, but the social pressure of being a Grierson and the weight of her oppressive Southern heritage surely did her no good. She was a prisoner of her name and a prisoner of the past.

What caused her to break probably cannot be ascribed to any one cause or a particular event, but the meddling of the community in sending for her relatives to come and straighten out her shocking behavior seems to have been a turning point in Emily's life--and perhaps in her mind, as well. Prior to that having happened, she had ridden with Homer in his carriage through the streets of Jefferson in full public view, as if to declare, finally, her independence of the town. She was making a statement, but her rebellion was brief, snuffed out by the town using her relatives as their agents. So Emily regrouped, and found another way . . . .


M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my case, my opinion may be yes (don't kill me).

While it is true that she SEEMED as if she did not care about the concerns of others and kept pushing people's buttons by staying her way the reality is that if she had not a deep concern about ending up a lonely woman, she would have not had so many issues letting go of her father, nor of Homer.

She was always pushed around by the opinions of those cousins of hers who hated Homer, and by the authoritative nature of her father.

It may not be enough evidence, but I have always felt that Miss Emily is more cookie than tough, and that she must have a terrible accumulation of fear and disillusions which have a lot to do with the expectations demanded of women, community members and especially those who come from an aristocratic Southern background.

Just a thought.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I second herappleness.  I do agree that the strict rules pushed on her by her father contributed to her breakdown; however, the pressure of the community continued to hold her in well after her father's death.  Miss Emily is rarely seen in town, but as soon as she meets Homer Barron and begins a relationship with him, the two are often seen publicly.  It's almost like Emily is parading him around town for all to see.  Once he is "gone," she goes back into her home.  Emily does not want anyone to be judged negatively by the townspeople, so she gives them little to work with.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Agreed.  Miss Emily is clearly unconcerned with the community or its pressures and judgments.  Instead, she blatantly ignores anything anyone else says--or tries to say, as in the case of the tax collectors and the priest and even her own family.  What anyone thinks or feels or believes has no impact whatsoever on Miss Emily.  The only person in her life who does have an impact on her is her father, as has been addressed above. The town matters not a whit to her and is no way responsible for whatever breakdown she has.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily was born into privilege and was used to giving orders and having them followed.  On the other hand, she was also used to following her father's orders...perhaps it is this oppression from her father and his protective nature that forces her to act the way she does about Homer.  Certainly, she refuses to be shamed by this person whom the community did not consider worthy of Miss Emily's attentions.  Having him leave her after she stood up for herself on this matter would have been more than she could bear.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with other editors in identifying that societal pressure must have played a minor (at best) role in the tragedy of Emily. She clearly shows that she is confident with her role in society and is aware of the norms and values of her world. The pressure that is far more responsible for the events of the story is the parental pressure coming from her father and the way he brought her up. This is why she acts in the way that she does - having her liberty she is free to use it in unthinkable ways.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On the metaphoric level, Emily's deteriorating conduct in destroying Homer Barron is her desperate effort to preserve the remnants of her cultural way of life as the Old South is forced to acquiesce to the North. Time and time again Emily balks at the mandates and suggestions of others who would disturb the world that she has known.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I, too, agree with the previous posts concerning the blind eye that Emily cast upon her own community. Emily's actions were selfish ones, done only for herself. I'm sure she showed little concern with what anyone else thought, and most of the actions of her life reflected this.

epollock | Student

No I don't. I think it was due to her oppressive father that contributed to her behavior throughout the story. It was her father that pushed her to the breaking point. He never really let her live as an adolescent and she did not know how to live as an adult. That was why Faulkner only gave her one rose, and not a bouquet. She had a life, just not a good one.

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A Rose for Emily

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