Analyze in depth the conflict in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner.

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booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the depth of conflict does not rest simply between characters. In fact, there are several kinds of conflict in the story.

The first and most obvious conflict is man vs. society. Miss Emily, as the story begins, refuses to pay her taxes.

"See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson."

"But, Miss Emily—"

"See Colonel Sartoris...I have no taxes in Jefferson.

We learn also, that when Miss Emily's father dies, she defies the conventions of society at first in refusing to let them take her father's body, insisting he was not dead. When female members of her family come to stay with her—perhaps act as companions or chaperones—she sends them packing. Later she is seen out riding with a Yankee, Homer Baron, a working man from the North.

...the ladies all said, "Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer."

Tongues wag, but Emily pays no attention. This shows the conflict still in place at that time between the North and the South, between the upper-class (the landed gentry) and the lower, working class. The comments by the women in time reflect older societal expectations that had been in place for hundreds of years.

Man vs. man was seen in that Emily's father turned away every young man who came to call on his daughter, believing none of them were good enough.

Man vs. man is also obvious when the dead body of Homer Baron is found in a room downstairs. When the facts are compiled, it seems that Miss Emily used rat poisoned she had purchased (from the "druggist") to keep Homer from leaving her.

Another deeper conflict can be seen in the changing of the ways of the Old South in the face of progress. Colonel Sartoris had excused Miss Emily's taxes, which the new aldermen were not happy about. The agreement had been carried out in an "old-fashioned" manner: by way of an oral agreement, rather than by contract. There was no substantiating paperwork. And the fact that Miss Emily went out riding with Homer Baron unchaperoned showed a new sense of independence in this new generation.

The deepest sense of the change in generations can be seen in how Jefferson saw Miss Emily—she was a relic of a time long-gone:

...Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the down.

The men went to her funeral...

...through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house...

Faulkner speaks to the conflicts between men and women, between the individual with society, and even society's loss of respect for the "old ways," as well as a turning away from tradition to embrace a new age.

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The main conflict in the story "A rose for Emily" by William Faulkner is the inability to move forward with the times, and the inability to change. It tells us about what happens when one refuses to stick to the same old values, ideas, and beliefs. It basically tells us that the inability to change could affect us all, and that it will never be a positive thing to attain such a behavior.

Faulkner embodies the main conflict in his anti-heroin, Miss Emily Grierson. Emily is a former Southern aristocrat raised in isolation. Her father never taught her social skills, for which she is considered as a foreigner even in her own town. All that people know is that Emily, her home, and even her black butler, are like looking into a mirror leading straight to the past.

Her behaviors are erratic and ridiculous: When her father dies, she wants to deny it and keep his body. When her boyfriend threatened to leave her, she kills him and keeps his body in their planned marriage suite until the day of her death.

Basically Faulkner is not just trying to tell us a Southern Gothic story, but he is also leading us into the mind of a woman that could be any of us during a time and place where we refuse to change and move forward.

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