In "A Rose for Emily" how do you think living in the small town makes things worse for Emily?

3 Answers | Add Yours

mrs-campbell's profile pic

mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In a small town, gossip is vicious, and people stick their noses into your business, even if it is none of their business. In a small town, there is greater pressure to live up to other people's expectations.  Because of the strain of trying to maintain his family's reputation as a rich, wealthy, respected family in town, Emily's father was too picky about who she should marry. He thought that "None of the young men were quite good enough." As a result, she lived a too-sheltered life and relied too much on him for love and affirmation.  This made his death very difficult, and she had a hard time letting go. Her first strange episode of not letting her father's body go occurred because of this dependence.  If her father had not been so concerned about the reputation of his family in the town, Emily might have been able to marry, and things might have been different.

Later, the townspeople viciously gossip about her and Homer Barron.  Yet, she still went out with him.  This would have made his rejection of her that much more difficult.  How would she face the gossiping townspeople who would just say, "We knew it!  We told you so!" and make Emily an object of fascinated pity again.  It was a blow to Emily's pride--not only her personal pride, but the pride that she felt she had to hold up for the townspeople.  That probably contributed to her freak out and succeeding murder.

Being a point of curiosity in a small town puts added pressure on you to appear happy, adjusted, and okay with the scrutiny of your life.  Tragedy impacts not only you personally, but is paraded in front of your face as the entire town becomes obsessed with it.  All of these things made things harder for Emily, and made her struggles seem that much more intensified.  I hope that these thoughts help; good luck!

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Perhaps the narrators express best the influence placed upon Emily by the society in which she lived when they say

even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige

All her life Emily is reminded that she is a Grierson, and, as such she must act and speak a certain way.  In the wake of her father's death she stands beneath his portrait, wearing his gold watch buried in the waist of a bloated person.  Now, she must remember decorum and behavior and act "properly" as General Sartoris would have wanted his daughter to act.

It is because she cannot shed this projection of what she should be--noblesse oblige--that Emily cannot become a person on her own.  She must kill Homer in order to retain her Southern gentility.  She must not let anyone else know in order to remain a lady and be able to look...eye for eye" 

And finally, she must remain a Grierson so that she can

pass from generation to generation --dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse. 

Top Answer

mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Jefferson was Emily's home, but it was more than that: It was a force that actually defined her. She was not Emily Grierson, an individual young woman. She was "a Grierson," and her identity was determined by everyone in Jefferson who held definite ideas about what that meant, based on every Grierson who had lived in Jefferson, long before Emily.

Emily was a prisoner of her family name in a small town where family names were of paramount importance. When Emily became involved with Homer Barron, Jefferson judged the match and found it unacceptable. Some of her neighbors contacted Miss Emily's out-of-town relatives with the news so that the relationship would be terminated. It was their responsibility, they believed, to make sure that Emily acted like a Grierson. When she strayed, they acted. By living and dying in her small town, Emily never experienced the freedom of anonymity and individuality.

We’ve answered 318,964 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question