A Rose for Emily Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

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In the short story "A Rose for Emily," how is Emily a metaphor for the rise and fall of the South??? I believe the fall is Emily being a fallen monument and romanticizing, but I cannot determine what the rise would be.

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Miss Emily had belonged to one of Jefferson's most illustrious families before the Civil War, but like many members of the ante-bellum Southern aristocracy, the "high and mighty Griersons" had been reduced to "pauper(s)" by the turn of the century. Miss Emily's "rise" came during her youth, when her father still commanded power and respect. Her father's occupation is never divulged, but he could well have been a planter or political figure--possibly an officer during the war. By the time of his death (probably around 1900), Emily's father was virtually penniless, and "it got about that the house was all that was left to her." Emily continued a downward spiral from that point, eventually reduced to the "fallen monument" who had become "a tradition, a duty and a care" to the town. Her biggest fall from grace came during her affair with the Yankee commoner Homer Barron, with whom she brazenly courted unescorted on Sundays. His rejection of her seemingly completed Emily's fall, although the surprise that awaited the men who broke down her upstairs bedroom door following her death only left the townspeople with yet another memory of the woman--"dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil and perverse."

Miss Emily's fall metaphorically parallels that of the South following the Civil War. The "noblesse oblige" that existed among the wealthy plantation owners disappeared following the defeat of the Confederacy. They were forced to suffer the indignities of the Union-mandated Reconstruction period as the South ever-so-slowly rebuilt itself. Change was not an easy thing for the generation of men and women who survived the war, of which Emily was a part. Change only came with the rising generations, and Emily resisted it in every way. While the older members of the town still treated her with chivalric respect, the new generation held no such views. Emily's "dark secret," finally uncovered in the upstairs bedroom, also serves as "a metaphor for the general decadence of the Old South."

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