In "A Rose for Emily," what does the following quote mean, and what is its significance?: "When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was...all that was left to her, 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 quote refers to how Emily's life had changed after the death of her father. The only thing she inherited from him was their large house, and as a result the once-wealthy Emily became poor like her neighbors. The townspeople enjoy seeing Emily humbled like this, a change from the formerly aloof and superior attitude she used to have of herself.

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The citizens of Jefferson perceive the Grierson family as haughty, arrogant individuals, who "held themselves a little too high for what they really were." The Griersons were successful plantation owners and occupied an impressive house on one of Jefferson's most select streets. Miss Emily's father was a domineering, callous man, who believed that none of the young men living in town were good enough for his daughter. Unfortunately, Miss Emily suffered under her father's constant supervision, which significantly impaired her social life and alienated her from her peers. As a result of the Grierson family's proud ways, the citizens of Jefferson grew to resent them.

Tragically, Miss Emily's father passed away, and she refused to acknowledge his death until she was forced to bury him. Following the death of her father, the only possession that Miss Emily inherited was the home, and she would finally experience the struggle of making ends meet like the less fortunate citizens for the first time. The citizens of Jefferson were glad to see Miss Emily humbled because they resented her arrogant, proud family. The significance of this quote illustrates the perception of the citizens, who narrate the story and view Miss Emily in many different ways. Throughout the story, the citizens experience a myriad of emotions towards Miss Emily, which range from pity and sympathy to shame and resentment. At this specific moment in the story, the citizens were happy to see Miss Emily humanized after losing her wealth. Their reaction to her unfortunate financial situation portrays them as petty, bitter individuals.

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To be able to understand this quote from "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, it is important to put it in context. The story is not told in chronological order. It begins at Emily's funeral and then shifts back and forth in time as it fills in the details of Emily's past. The unnamed narrator writes as if he represents the entire town, using the perspective of "we" instead of "I" when making comments.

The observation in the quote is given shortly after the death of Emily's father. In the previous paragraph, the narrator explains that Emily and her father held themselves aloof from the rest of the townspeople. "None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such." Her father was overprotective of her so that "she got to be thirty and was still single." Their aloofness caused them to be remote from the rest of the town. Since this was obviously a close-knit, tradition-bound Southern town, Emily and her father were anomalies due to their superior attitudes.

However, after Emily's father dies, "it got about that the house was all that was left to her." This means that everyone in the town finds out that although Emily inherits her father's house, he had no money to leave her. People pity her, but at the same time they are glad of this because it brings her back down to their level. She is no longer remote and distant, but poor and human just like they are. Instead of feeling a sense of superiority, she would have to "know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less." In other words, she would have to follow a budget and watch her expenses, just like they all did. Their pity also causes them to waive local taxes for Miss Emily.

Of course, subsequent events in the story show that the pity of the townspeople is misplaced. Emily continues to isolate herself from everyone, murders the man who is briefly her boyfriend, and lives for a long time in her old house with the corpse of her dead lover.

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Before her father died, Emily lived with enough money to provoke people to resent her and her family for their haughty ways. Though her great aunt goes crazy, Emily and her father live as though they were still local nobility, and the townspeople think that "the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were." Emily, for example, appears to reject all the young men who court her, but when she is thirty, it is clear that perhaps not so many young men have actually appeared, as she couldn't have dismissed all of them. Then, when her father dies, she has nothing left. Rather than be jealous of Emily's noble past, the townspeople pity her present poverty, which puts her on the same level as everyone else. The significance of this quote is that it explains why the town is so indulgent towards Emily and why they don't force her to pay taxes. It also explains why the druggist sells her arsenic and why the town doesn't ask any questions when Homer Barron, her former boyfriend, disappears.

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The Grierson family had once been a prominent one in Jefferson, and their house had been one of the finest in the town. But by the time of Emily's father's death, there was no family money left--only the old, crumbling house. Since the "Grierson's had always held themselves a little too high for what they really were," the townspeople had never really felt any pity for them. But now that the town knew that Emily was penniless, and that she was no longer bound by the iron hand of her father, the people of Jefferson felt that they could now feel sorry for her. Now that she had become "humanized," Emily was an equal to the rest of the townspeople: She, too, was now poor, and she would have to live the rest of her life with the financial uncertainties that other "paupers" endure.

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