In "A Rose for Emily," what contrast does the narrator draw between changing reality and Emily's refusal or inability to recognize change?

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Emily seems to think and feel in absolutes; there is no middle ground, gray area, or possibility of change in her perception of the world. Her house, for example, is not well-kept as time passes, and the narrator describes it as possessing a "stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton...

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Emily seems to think and feel in absolutes; there is no middle ground, gray area, or possibility of change in her perception of the world. Her house, for example, is not well-kept as time passes, and the narrator describes it as possessing a "stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps—an eyesore among eyesores." No effort has been made to update the home or even keep it in good repair; it now sits, strangely, among relics of an old life (cotton wagons) and the representations of a new (the gas pumps). Even the description of it makes it sound like a Southern belle of the antebellum era. It, like Miss Emily, is a "tradition": something held on to that does not change.

When town representatives come to speak with her about paying her taxes, she encourages them to "See Colonel Sartoris," despite his being dead for ten years, and she declares that she has "no taxes in Jefferson," as if this is an undeniable and unchangeable fact. Then she dismisses the men as if they were beneath her. Emily clearly grew comfortable with her life with her father so that, when he died, she could not accept that she was now completely alone. Her "father had driven away" all of her suitors, leaving her no choices. Rather than recognize the wrongheadedness of this behavior, she does the same thing to Homer Barron: she leaves him no choice. She poisons him and keeps his corpse in her bed for decades. Emily simply does not possess the ability to accept a changing reality and to move on with her life. Instead, she seems to freeze time inside her home so that she does not have to confront change outside it.

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The narrator uses the setting to draw attention to the fact that Miss Emily cannot and does not change.  Her house is described as having fallen into disrepair, the once white house is in bad need of a paint job.  The neighborhood in which the house is located was undoubtedly one of the best but the narrator drops little hints as to the current situation by telling us that gasoline pumps and cotton gins are now nearing her property. This tells the reader that the neighborhood has lost some of its affluence. 

As the narrator goes into the history and story of Miss Emily, we see her in her natural setting. In other words, she fits into the setting of the town as a young woman.  However, as the town grows and develops, she does not. In this case, she represents the 'Old South'.  Although not specifically stated why, we know that she has been given a reprieve from paying taxes by the Colonel.  As the town grows and new town leaders come into office, they find her reprieve to be a relic of and antiquated in unjust system of favouritism.  This also shows a contrast between new and old.  

To sum up, the setting contrasts and highlights Miss Emily's inability to change with the rest of the town who do change.  We see this in both physical descriptions of the town and in the situation described above concerning the new town officials. 

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Miss Emily appears to still be stuck in a time in which her family was 'on top' of the local society. Her home is run-down and falling apart and it is also way to big for one person to live in, yet she stays. The run-down appearance of the house is contrasted by the fact that the city is putting in paved sidewalks out front; the rest of the city is moving on, but Miss Emily stays the same.

This is also apparent in that it is clear that Homer Barron intends to leave her, yet Emily cannot deal with this fact. She is forced to alter reality so that it will fall in line with how SHE thinks it should go; therefore, she kills Barron so that she is able to 'keep' him forever, just as she thinks it should be.

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