In "A Rose for Emily", how does the description of Emily's house help us understand her actions?

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tsjoseph eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Faulkner's story, the house itself functions as a sort of parallel to Emily.  Faulkner establishes the house's importance at the story's outset, explaining that the women of the town attended Emily's funeral "mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house."  Both Emily and the house had been enigmas to the townspeople for years--Emily's own motivations and desires as mysterious as the interior of her home. 

Like Emily, the house is a relic of the past.  In the face of modernization, Emily's house did not change: "...only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps."  Emily is trapped in the past and refuses to acknowledge the reality of the present or future.  She does not acknowledge her father's death, and she poisons Homer Barron in order to refuse the reality of Homer's desertion.  The house, itself a sort of corpse, is home to the real and psychological corpses of Emily's life.  Inside the house, the portrait of her father represents his forceful presence in her life long after he was buried.

The house, then, reveals the way that Emily lives a sort of death in life. She has attempted to stall time and reality within the walls of her house.