If one had to explain the central purpose of the story "A Rose for Emily", what would it be?
I am trying to help my daughter write a paper. She has been asked to explain how fully the story achieves its purpose and how significant the purpose is? I'm not sure exactly what the purpose is since the story is so multi-dimensional.
You could look at it as if the main purpose is Faulkner's warning that not everything can last forever. Emily attempted to hang on to the past and not evolve and change as the times changed around her. She clung to what she has always known resulting in isolation, rejection, and judgement from the town and all who knew her, and eventually death. Perhaps Faulkner, like Shirley Jackson in "The Lottery", is telling us that tradition for tradition's sake is deadly. That we must adapt and evolve in order to survive.
If an abstract explanation is allowed, try this: the purpose is to show the dangerous interplay of identity, desire, and context. Or, to put that more simply, everything that happens in the story happens because Emily is who she is, because she's in that specific context, and because she wants certain things and the context (town, father, etc.) wants others. They clash, and the result is isolation and death.