How is "A Rose for Emily" a story about the human heart in conflict with itself?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part I of Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" finds the townspeople alluding to Emily as "a tradition, a duty, and a ...sort of hereditary obligation upon the town." Truly, Emily's heart has been inextricably tied to tradition during her life as the Grierson patriarch enforced his standards upon his daughter. So steeped in tradition is her heart that when her father dies, Emily displays no grief and refuses to allow the body of her father to be taken as she can imagine no other life than that of being Grierson's daughter. It is then that the narrators remark upon her breaking down when the men come for her father's body,

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.

Emily holds onto what has "robbed her" as, after she is seen with a Northerner and a laborer and he intends to bring her disgrace by leaving her, she follows the code of the Old South and kills him as the men of the father's patriarchal society would kill a false suitor in a duel. Always Emily has the Old South traditions in conflict with her heart. Her life is a tragedy as her sense of lineage--"hereditary obligation"--and culture--"tradition"--comes continually in conflict with her heart.


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A Rose for Emily

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