In "A Rose for Emily" how is Emily treated by others in the town? How is she treated by her family?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the short story, the community's complex relationship with Emily Grierson represents how Southern citizens perceive and interact with their Confederate past and future. The community of Jefferson respects Emily Grierson because she hails from a prestigious family, yet they are highly critical of her life, which they discuss with each another privately. At the beginning of the story, Faulkner reveals the enigma surrounding Emily and mentions that the women are curious about her affairs. Faulkner goes on to describe Emily as a "sort of hereditary obligation upon the town," and illustrates how the older generation of Jeffersonians remitted her taxes. However, the newer generation does not honor Colonel Sartoris's decision and attempts to collect Emily's owed money. The eighty-year-old Judge Stevens, who represents the traditional culture of the Old South, demonstrates his respect for Miss Emily by insisting that the community take it upon themselves to spread lime throughout her yard unnoticed.

Faulkner also writes that the community believes that the Grierson's "held themselves a little too high for what they really were." When Emily's father passes away, the community begins to pity Emily because she has become "humanized." The citizens then criticize her relationship with Homer Barron, who symbolizes Northern business prospects in the South. Some citizens believe that Emily should kill herself, and they willingly send a Baptist minister to visit her home in hopes of persuading her to end the relationship. However, once they believe Emily is married to Homer, they rejoice. Once again, Faulkner illustrates the complex feelings of Southern citizens as they wrestle with their past and future. The contrast between how the older generation and the new generation of citizens treat Emily is most explicitly portrayed in their attendance to Miss Emily's painting sessions. General Satoris's daughters and granddaughters regularly visit Emily's home for lessons out of charity. In contrast, Faulkner writes,

"Then the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of the town, and the painting pupils grew up and fell away and did not send their children to her with boxes of color and tedious brushes and pictures cut from the ladies' magazines" (5).

By the end of the story, the entire town shows up to Emily's funeral out of respect and curiosity. Overall, the complex feelings of the community range from reverence to disgust and reflect the numerous opinions of Southerners concerning their Confederate past and postwar future.

Emily's relationship with her family is characterized by her father's oppressive nature. Emily's father is an austere man, who believes that no one is good enough for his daughter. He continuously dismisses Emily's suitors out of arrogance and lords over his timid daughter. Emily's relationship with her father is represented in a family portrait, which depicts her father holding a horsewhip in the foreground as his back faces Emily. Unfortunately, Emily is raised under the oppressive rule of her father and lives a relatively isolated life. When Emily's father dies, she initially refuses to acknowledge his death. Her father's portrait even adorns her living room, which symbolizes his continual surveillance and authority throughout her life. Emily also has family living in Alabama, who do not communicate with her after a falling out regarding an old estate. Overall, Emily is victimized by her strict, overprotective father, who essentially ruins her opportunities to date as a young woman.

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A Rose for Emily

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