How do the townspeople know what they know about Miss Emily's life in "A Rose for Emily"? 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In what is called the Old South, a region of the United States settled in the seventeenth century, there were communities in which prestigious families ruled, and the wealthy family name was known throughout the area. In fact, generations of residents grew up knowing these ruling families who possessed power through wealth and political connections.

The Griersons were one of these powerful families who lived in the traditional white mansion, "decorated with cupolas and spires" and Grecian columns in the front. This mansion is the only one remaining in the neighborhood, so it would attain a certain notoriety because of its stalwart existence. The narrators mention that Miss Emily Grierson with her old family name has become "a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town." Therefore, she would be well-known because she is unique: Her antiquated house yet stands in testimony to antebellum days; since 1894 when Colonel Sartoris remitted her taxes, the town has had to absorb the amount each year. 

Such tales as her refusal to pay taxes and her admonition that the aldermen "see Colonel Sartoris" about the affair have been handed down through town gossip. Further information about Miss Emily simply is passed around, and people learn of the circumstances surrounding her through this talk among the residents of the town. For instance, narrators observe,

When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily.....

Because she is from a prestigious family, the townspeople watch Emily. Later, when she rides with the Northerner, Homer Barron, around town,

some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people.

This continual watching and talking by the townspeople keeps the happenings of Emily Grierson familiar to many.

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