How did the neighbors treat Emily in "A Rose for Emily"?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The neighbourhood, which interestingly in this story acts as a kind of communal narrator, treats Miss Emily with a range of different responses in this masterful Southern Gothic classic by Faulkner. She is clearly the topic of much gossip and discussion, but also within that discussion there is a certain amount of respect. Note how the story begins by describing the "respectful affection" that is normally shown for a "fallen monument" that the neighbours express at Miss Emily's death. However, the narrator goes on to tell us how she had been treated and viewed in her lifetime:

Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town...

We can almost see Miss Emily therefore as some kind of town "charge" who has been entrusted into the care of the town, ever since Colonel Sartoris remitted her taxes. Going back into the past, however, we see that pity is another emotion that the neighbours expressed towards Miss Emily, especially concerning her tyrannical father, horsewhip in hand, who denies her the happiness of marriage and leaves her in penury. However, clearly she is an oddity as well, as shown by her initial refusal to accept the fact of her father's death.

Thus the neighbours show a range of emotions towards Miss Emily. It is clear she is an institution of the town, and as such, much talked about and gossiped over.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "A Rose For Emily," Emily's neighbors treat her in a very respectful way. This is shown clearly when she is summoned to a meeting of the Board of Aldermen. When Emily arrives, for example, everyone in the town stands up, as a symbol of their respect for her. Moreover, the neighbors do not question her liability for paying tax; it is only the more "modern" people who do. This is a clear sign that Emily's status (and her word) are respected.

In addition, the neighbors give Emily a special status, as though she is in a league of her own. We see this in the opening lines of the story when the narrator describes her funeral. There is a certain curiosity around Emily, as shown by the women who attended her funeral just so they could see her house. Furthermore, when Emily is seen buying arsenic, she becomes the focal point for local gossip, but nobody, except the minister, dares to question her motivations. She is clearly exempt from the rules of ordinary people.

Read the study guide:
A Rose for Emily

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question