I absolutely love discussing the William Faulkner short story, “A Rose for Emily.” Her upbringing was certainly tragic as her “over protective” father stood in the doorway with the whip and she stood in the background as he drove off the suitors. Then shortly after her father died the physical transformation in her that was almost boyish--as if she was trying to deny her female sexuality. Is it possible she was victimized sexually by her father and then again by Homer who seemed to play her for a fool? These would certainly be tragic events.
A Rose For Emily
What details from the story lead some readers to consider this a "tragedy with Emily as a heroine"?
The tragic nature of Emily's life is made really clear in the story, a life unfulfilled: a domineering father, a repressive Southern culture, a nosy town. Everyone had a strong opinion as to how Miss Emily should live her life, and she acquiesed to them, getting nothing in return except to lead a life of loneliness and to play her role as the object of the town's gossip. That would sum up the tragic part. But what of the heroism?
Was it heroic of her to continue to live each day under such conditions? To endure? Perhaps. However, maybe her real act of heroism was to rebel, to live even for a short while as she wished, despite the condemnation of others. In choosing Homer Barron, Emily sent the town a strong message: I will do what I want to do because it makes me happy, and I do not care what you think of it. Such a statement from someone of Emily's nature and background was strong stuff.
Unfortunately, the love affair did not turn out well and Miss Emily spun off into madness, but that does not negate her courage in--just once--claiming her own life by standing against every force that would deny her. That seems pretty heroic in any society.
Emily struggles under the control of a dominating and demanding father who prevents his daughter from marrying. He rejects all her potential suitors, finding them beneath her. Emily, is therefore, alone because of her father's strict standards for a potential husband.
A staunch supporter of the Confederacy, Miss Emily's father, like other plantation owner types is devastated when the South loses the war. The whole culture of the South, their way of life was altered after they lost. They became subject to carpetbaggers who forced them to work on their own land as laborers. Miss Emily's lifestyle and all her options are altered permanently.
As time passes, and she ages, her father dies, and she is left alone, except for a servant, to live in a world that no longer exists. She is left behind, a relic of the old South, now older and alone.
Sadly, she picked up with a Yankee, Homer Barron who has come to work in her town. However, poor Emily has set her sights on the wrong man. He is not the marrying kind, he apparently prefers men.
Driven by the fear of being alone, and the desperation to make the relationship work, she poisons Homer Barron and props his dead body on a bed. She apparently sleeps next to the rotting corpse until she dies.
Emily the silent, tragic heroine, is forced to sacrifice her life because of the constricting demands of her father, makes a terrible choice, a fatal choice for Homer Barron. Her life of loneliness not altered by the presence of the dead Yankee.