How does "A Rose for Emily" reflect isolation?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Through the short story "A Rose for Emily," Faulkner examines the theme of isolation through the character of Emily Grierson and the traditional culture of the old South. Emily Grierson is an enigmatic, reclusive individual throughout the story who becomes the topic of the town's conversation during her funeral. Emily grew up under the oppressive authority of her father, who rejected all of her suitors when she was a young woman. As a result, Emily lived an isolated life and spent the majority of her youth at her family's estate under her father's supervision. After Emily's father dies, the community mentions that she disappears for some time. Later on, Emily experiences her first meaningful relationship by dating Homer Barron, despite the community's disapproval. However, Emily purchases arsenic from the local pharmacist and the citizens of Jefferson do not see her or Homer Barron for six months. Emily then begins growing old, and the community acknowledges,

From that time on her front door remained closed, save for a period of six or seven years, when she was about forty, during which she gave lessons in china-painting (Faulkner 7).

Emily Grierson remains isolated in her decaying home until the day she dies. The only time community members see Emily is when she looks through her windows and occasionally during their rare visits to her home. Emily's isolated life is a result of her father's oppressive personality and her inability to branch out into Jefferson's society. As time passes, Emily simply becomes more reclusive and cannot adapt to the changing culture of Jefferson, which metaphorically represents the decay of the old South.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the concept of isolation is most clearly reflected in the life of the protagonist of this excellent short story, Miss Emily herself. Throughout the story we are shown that she lives a life that is separate from the rest of the town, and that especially in her last few years, hardly anyone saw her at all. Note what we are told in the first paragraph of the story about how isolated Miss Emily was as a character in her life:

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.

So, whilst it is clear that her last years were spent in isolation, when we reflect on the dominating memory that the townspeople have of her childhood, it becomes clear that her father ensured that she was kept isolated as well, and that she was never able to form any meaningful relationships because of his idea of their social status. Likewise, the descriptions that we are given of Miss Emily in her old age, when the Aldermen go and visit her about the question of her taxes, indicates that in a sense she is already dead and separated from the rest of the world through her appearance, which is described as being "bloated, like a body long submerged in motionaless water." In every sense of the word, Miss Emily is a character who is isolated.

yuqinglisa | Student

Miss Emily is a woman who had the whole town wondering what she was doing, but did not allow anyone the pleasure of finding out. Once the men that she cared about in life deserted her, either by death or by simply leaving her, she hid out and did not allow anyone to get close to her. Miss Emily was indeed afraid to confront the reality that Backman discusses. Since she did not want to accept the fact that the people she cared about were gone, she hid in her house and did not go out. She was the perfect example of a woman isolated by a society controlled by men who make trouble for her instead of helping her.

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A Rose for Emily

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