In "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, what is the attitude of the townspeople towards Emily? Why?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While there is, indeed, ambiguity in exactly what the multiple narrators' points of view are toward Emily, there does seem to be a reverence on the part of these narrators for the culture of the Old South.  For instance, when Emily is seen driving around town with Homer Barron it is as though one of the cultural orders of the town is desecrated.  In Part IV, the narrators mention that they say "Poor Emily," and

some of the ladies begain to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people.

And, in order to reestablish the prestige attached to Emily, the ladies have the minister call upon her; in addition, they write to Emily's cousins in Alabama.  The narrators comment,

We were glad because the two female cousins were even more Grierson that Miss Emily had ever been.

Thus, there seems to be a propensity on the part of the narrators to not only revere the traditional cuture of the South, but also to desire it preservation.  This condition is notable in other Southern novels, such as Erskine Caldwell's "Tobacco Road," in which Luster Sexton refuses to leave his dirt farm and go to the city where he can easily find employment in the factories.  Entrenched in the feudal mind of the Old South, Sexton would rather starve than relinquish the traditional life he has known.  The narrators of "A Rose for Emily" appear to be of similar thinking.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The townspeople are somewhat ambivalent about Miss Emily, don't you think? She is all that is left of the "aristocracy" of the town, and that aristocracy was probably respected but feared and disliked in her father's day. As that "class" eroded in the South, people probably watched its decline with equal parts sympathy and satisfaction. I think the townspeople cared about Miss Emily, but were not all that sorry to see her decline. Another aspect of the townspeople's attitude was probably great curiosity about how the "other half" lived. The story makes several references to how the townspeople wanted to see the inside of the house, and, of course, Miss Emily was a source of almost constant gossip and speculation.

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A Rose for Emily

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