How is the main character of "A Rose for Emily" misunderstood? Does she create her own problems? How does it relate to the main theme?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" the townsfolk narrator agrees wholeheartedly in the fact that Miss Emily Grierson is a product of her time; that she has been unable to fully catch up with the rest of society, and that she is limited in more ways than one.

However, the same narrator humanizes Emily by shifting the blame of her problems, from her, to her father.

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. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.

The narrator also explains how Emily lived her entire life under her father's control, to the point that she had been unable to properly find a life companion; that this upbringing has turned her into a recluse, and eccentric. However, the fact that the town scornfully refers to the formerly-powerful Griersons as "high and mighty" denotes that Emily was once privileged, and over-protected to the point of leaving her powerless to take care of herself in any way.

We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

Therefore, the character has no choice but to be misunderstood. Anyone who lives in a different time and place than what they are supposed to mentally would be. She is a product of an upbringing and of the clash of worlds that she endured: the former greatness of the South versus the new Reconstruction time of which she was a victim. The relationship of this to the main theme is precisely that: there is a complete disconnect between what is, and what should be; between the past and the present, and between the real and the unreal. Ultimately, all of these things make Emily finally snap.