In a "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, is Emily a white woman?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily Grierson was, in fact, a Caucasian woman from an old, Southern respected family which was once wealthy, but had fallen into anonymity and poverty. 

The fullest description that we get in the story comes from when Emily received the Board of Aldermen in her home, after they came to discuss the deputation they had on her over the non-payment of her taxes. She was 

a small, fat woman in black... Her skeleton was small and spare; ..She looked bloated,.. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal...

While none of these descriptors mentions the racial or ethnic background of Miss Emily, it suffices to know that she was the daughter of a man who was a Southern, imposing landowner with what once was a huge estate, now gone into ruin.

No African American could have been in possession of land or estate, particularly a large or grandiose one such as Emily's, during the time period that Emily lived in it. Therefore, based on historical facts, and using inferences and inductive reasoning, we can safely argue that Emily was, in fact, a Caucasian woman.

Another indication of Emily being Caucasian is that Emily's family had ties with Colonel Sartoris. Again, few to no families of African American descent would have been so well-acquainted with a town mayor of the Caucasian race, especially in the South, where blacks and whites kept socially separated. Moreover, to get favors from the mayor, such as the dispensation to quit paying taxes, would have been unheard of from a white mayor to an African American family, no matter how rich they would have been.

Clearly, there was an association between Mr. Grierson and Col. Satoris, presumably going back to their service in the Confederate States Army (CSA.) Even if Emily's father had been a black soldier serving in the CSA, (and over 6,000 blacks DID serve in the Confederate army as soldiers, ) he would have not been allowed to fraternize with a white Colonel. This is perhaps the strongest evidence of the type of family that Emily comes from, and proves that she is Caucasian. 

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A Rose for Emily

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