" It 's simple enough," he said. " send her word to have her place cleaned up. give her a certain tome to do it in, and if she don't ....""A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner the quote what makes...

" It 's simple enough," he said. " send her word to have her place cleaned up. give her a certain tome to do it in, and if she don't ...."

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner the quote what makes important to the story

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "A Rose For Emily," at a certain point in the story, a terrible smell is emitted from the house. The "elders" of the town try to meet with Miss Emily to discuss the problem. First of all, she will not tolerate the intrusion of visitors. And as one person puts it, 'How are you going to tell the woman to her face that she smells?'

This is the result of a long-standing Southern tradition to show families of high social standing the utmost respect, especially the women of those families.  And although the town has changed over the years, Miss Emily and her expectations of society to show her respect and acknowledge her right to privacy have not changed.

In theory, the elders feels that it is nothing more than asking her to clean up an old car sitting on cinderblocks in front of her home: it is a business arrangement that "normal" people might not want to comply with, but could see the logic driving it.  Miss Emily is having nothing to do with it. She is important enough "in perpetuity" that no one will defy her: others have tried and failed.

What makes this so significant besides the fact that she has her way with the town elders, is that they end up sneaking around her house one night to sprinkle lime to battle the smell--and soon it does disappear. However, what makes this occurrence so central to the eerie plot is (as we learn at the very end of the story), the smell came from the rotting corpse of her lover, Homer Baron, who she had poisoned and placed in their bridal bed. (Of course, if that's not enough to raise the hair on someone's neck, the long strand of iron-grey hair on the pillow next to the skeleton indicates that she has been sleeping in that bed since Homer disappeared so many years ago.)

That detail is pivotal to understanding what this upright member of society was doing under the public's nose years before.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote illustrates the theme of the generation gap that is evidenced through the story.  When Emily is in her 30's and the smell develops, the leaders of the local government ("three graybeards and one of the younger generation") are gentlemen of the older, Southern genteel generation who would never confront a lady about anything that might embarass her, such as a foul smell around her home. This is the same group of men who remitted her taxes, and created a story to protect her sense of honor, rather than tell her they felt sorry for her.   The younger generation are the ones who simply demand that Emily be confronted with the smell and the demand to clean it up. 

Thirty years later, the younger generation are now firmly in charge of things and they are ones who just show up at her house to confront her about her unpaid tax notice in section 1 of the story.  They don't care about a 30 year old decree from Col. Sartoris -- they can't find an official record of it (it never would have existed in any formal way), so they just make the demand without thought to Miss Emily's former status.  The two episodes are tied together when the narrator tells us that Miss Emily "vanquished them just as she vanquished their forefathers thirty years before about the smell."  These details help the reader understand the passage of time through the story as well as understand Miss Emily's refusal to "go with the times," and instead remain stagnant in the past with its long gone traditions and attitudes. 

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A Rose for Emily

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