In "A Rose for Emily", why does Faulkner want the reader to feel sympathy towards Emily in the beginning and disgust at the end?
In the beginning the reader feels sorry for the death of Emily's father, but by the end we find out the morbid task she did. Is there a reason for Faulkner's manipulation on our mood towards Emily?
It has everything to do with the unwritten and unspoken rules of the south. Miss Emily had them ingrained in her from the very beginning--from the patriarchial society to the weak and helpless facade women were to wear, and the all-important reputation of the southern lady. Faulkner wants us to understand that her background and upbringing has everything to do with her choice in taking Homer Baron's life. She felt it was the only thing she could do to preserve her delicate reputation since in her mind, she was still living in that time period. Her mental illness did not allow her to realize that times had changed...the difference in the street and landscape of the town where she lived shows definite signs of progress, but she hasn't kept up with any of it. Faulkner wants the reader to understand this about her and not judge her too harshly for her actions.
I do not believe Faulkner wants the reader to ever feel Emily is disgusting. Although it is clear she is mentally ill and committed an unspeakable act, Faulkner makes sure the reader is aware that Miss Emily had a very difficult childhood and adolescence because her father was a tyrant. He kept her as a prisoner, for lack of better words. Her sense of reality was terribly skewed and she was never able to develop healthy social relationships. Because Faulkner portrays Miss Emily as a victim, it is difficult to say that he wanted the reader to feel disgust for her. In no way does this condone what she did, however!
Emily is a sympathetic character throughout the story. Even though we are disgusted by her supposed actions, we can understand her motivation and the reasons she was forced to take such drastic action. Emily, as part of the Old Southern traditional society, had belonged to a well connected, prominent, rich family. However, her father kept her from marrying when she was younger and then left her virtually penniless upon his death. This leaves Emily is a dire situation, As an unmarried woman of her age and social standing, she would be expected to be married, with a husband to provide for her. Since her father prevented these things from occurring, she is forced to take matters into her own hands. However, she is not ready to meet the modern world and get a job, so she searches for a husband. When she thinks she's found a man to marry her, he refuses because he is gay. In her mind, Emily believes she has no other options and begins to live in a dream world. This world includes a husband, even though he is a dead body, It is the only way she sees of coping with her situation. So even though the reader is disgusted by the ending of the story, he/she can still understand Emily's desperate, creepy and insane actions.