Miss Emily Grierson's house, with its "cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies" represents the grandness of a Southern house built just after the end of the Civil War. It stands in contrast to "the next generation, with its more modern ideas." These modern ideas include rejecting the gentlemen's agreement that her taxes will be forgiven because of the favor her father had done for the town by lending it money years before.
After Miss Emily dismisses would-be tax collectors from her home, her house stands as a fortress protecting the Southern gentility of a mostly abandoned way of life. Her elaborate stationery, calligraphy, formal dress, and employment of an African American all speak to a house where time has stopped. Over time, "her front door remained closed, save for a period of six or seven years" when she gave lessons in china-painting," a pastime of genteel Southern women that eventually fades away as people lose interest.
Miss Emily's house, a symbol of her unrelenting grip on a vanished past, ultimately has to be forcibly invaded. Men from town have to break into her cellar to sprinkle lime when her house begins to reek of decomposition. Upon her death, the room where she has died, which no outsider had seen for forty years, has to be broken into.