In "A Rose for Emily," does Emily represent the “old South”? Why?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily Grierson symbolically represents the decay of the Old South and is referred to as a "fallen monument" and "tradition" throughout the short story. Emily Grierson hails from a once prestigious family, who eventually lost their wealth following the Civil War. Similar to the fate of the Griersons, the southern aristocracy declined following the Civil War, as many institutions, such as slavery, were disbanded. With no slaves to work their fields and with the increasing pressure of the burgeoning manufacturing industry, many aristocratic southern families lost their wealth. However, Emily Grierson is still considered a "tradition" throughout her changing community as she desperately attempts to hold onto the past.

Following the death of her father, Emily begins courting a Yankee named Homer Barron. Homer Barron hails from a working-class family, and many Jefferson citizens do not approve of his relationship with Emily. Homer Barron represents the Northern industry complex that invaded the South following the Civil War. Emily's relationship with Homer symbolically represents how upper-class Southern families sought to regain their wealth by going into business with Northerners.

Eventually, Emily Grierson enigmatically dies, and it is suggested that she poisoned Homer Barron so that he would not leave her. Emily's refusal to accept Jefferson's changing society represents the struggle of the Old South to remain relevant following the Civil War. Faulkner allegorically presents the circumstances of the southern aristocracy in the postwar era through Emily's dysfunctional life.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily is a representation of the old south.  She was raised in an environment of southern gentility by a father who prided himself on being a true southern gentleman. 

"Emily’s father, an arrogant Southern aristocrat who believes that no man is good enough for his daughter."

When her father dies, she refuses to accept it.

"She keeps his body for three days before she finally breaks down and allows her father to be buried."

This can be interpreted as clinging to the old south, as represented in her father, Emily cannot bear to part with him or the old way of life.  

Because of her father's strict nature, Emily is left alone after his death.  She is susceptible to the charms of Homer Barron, who is deemed unacceptable for her by her family and the members of the town. 

"The older people dislike the relationship because they think it is bad form for a Southern woman to associate with a Yankee."

Emily's madness and eccentricity are symbolic and representative of the death and decay of the old south.  Just as the old southern gentility is slipping into the past, so does Emily's ability to focus on reality. 

Emily's obsession with death arises again, she would rather have a dead man in her home than no man.

"Emily’s purchase of arsenic; the awful smell coming from her home after Homer disappears) and the town’s grotesque discovery at the end of the story suggest that Emily is driven to murder."

lewismct eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily represents the "old South" because she stagnates and does not change with the times.  She refuses to accept change such as the death of her father; she also does not accept that Colonel Sartoris has dies; and finally she lies with the corpse of Homer rather that to accept that he will never marry her.

The "next generation, with its more modern ideas" attempts to have her pay her taxes, but she refers them to Colonel Sartoris who has been dead ten years.  "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me."  As they stand before her, "they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain."  The invisible watch represents the time that has past without Emily's recognition.  Time is invisible for her, time stands still and she does not change

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A Rose for Emily

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