What is Emily's dilemma between the Old South and the New South in "A Rose for Emily." Please elaborate.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Firmly immersed in the culture of the patriarchal Old South, Miss Emily Grierson is ill-prepared for any life in the New South. For, she has been sheltered by a domineering father in an affluent family that has servants; she has learned to paint china and serve tea and act the lady, but she has few practical skills. While she has lived in her father's house, she has been denied social interaction with only those of aristocratic families, her father having turned away others.

That she has remained lost in the former world of the Old South is evinced in Emily's behavior as she confronts the city authorities, insisting that she has no taxes to pay, ordering them to see Colonel Sartoris, an official who has been dead for almost ten years. Also, she has the temerity to refuse the authorities, insisting that her father is not dead on the third day that his remains are yet in the house. 

We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

Emily does, indeed,"cling to that which had robbed her," but in a different way when she later emerges with short hair years later from her house with Homer Barron, in a childish attempt to recapture part of what she has lost, the townspeople are disturbed that she has forgotten her sense of noblesse oblige. So, when Homer leaves her, Emily once again retreats into the security of her old world that she knows. She buys arsenic and successfully stops time, retreating again into the private world in which she has so long dwelt as "the Negro grow[s] grayer and more stooped." Each week she is sent a tax notice that she has returned to the post office, unclaimed.And, she lies down with her lover, alsoo lost in time. 

At her funeral, the old men come dressed in their Confederate uniforms, mistakenly speaking of Emily as though they had known her and danced with her as youths, "confusing time with its mathematical progression." As in the first section, Emily remains "a fallen monument," one that can never assimilate into contemporary times, times of which she knows nothing.

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A Rose for Emily

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