In "A Rose for Emily," the author introduces a tension between what belongs to the individual and what is the possession of the group.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Set in the South after the Civil War, Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" reveals tension between former aristocracy and townspeople. 

Emily is an exaggerated example of aristocracy refusing to give up the past and accept change.  In effect, she refuses to relinquish her former station in society and become a part of the new community.  We see tension between  individual property and individual rights and community property and community rights in several instances:

  • When the community wants to place a mailbox on Emily's home, she refuses.  The U.S. mail is a sign of progress in the community, and is something everyone is naturally expected to take part in.  But Emily refuses.  Her house is her house and she will not share or take part in this community improvement.
  • Emily "dates" Homer in public, offending the sensibilities of the community.  She is seen in public alone with Homer, and she insists on being with him even though he is economically and socially below her.
  • Emily might argue that her father is her father, and if she wants to keep his body in her home she can do so.  Her individual rights and property (her father's body) are in conflict with society's need to maintain good health and hygiene and normality when she refuses to give up the corpse. 

Stuck in an existence in which she was figuratively elevated from the "common" people of the society, Emily refuses to conform and be like others in the society.  This in itself, is not necessarily a negative, but Emily's apparent mental illness pushes her beyond slight nonconformities like the refusal to allow a mailbox to be put on her house and her dating Homer, to trying to keep her father's corpse in her home, rather than allowing it to be buried. 

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A Rose for Emily

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