What connections can be drawn between the author's life and the themes presented in "A Rose for Emily"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Connections that can be made between the life of author William Faulkner and themes of his short story "A Rose for Emily" are the themes of Remembrance of the Past, Tradition versus Change and New Ways, and Tragic Lives of the Past.

  • Remembrance of the Past

As a son of the South who returned from World War I, William Faulkner found his beloved South in decline. He gathered scraps of family tradition, gossip from the Courthouse Square, memories from his childhood in Oxford, Mississippi, and tales from his great-grandfather, William Clark Faulkner, the "Old Colonel," a patriarch whose statue towered among the ruins of a family plantation when Faulkner was a boy. Not unlike Emily Grierson, who "had been a tradition" but is forced into a new world, Faulkner found himself immersed into two worlds into which the lines between the past and the present were blurred.

  • Tradition versus Change and New Ways

When William was young, like Emily, he was often isolated and detached because he felt a longing for the past when the South was prosperous and proud. Emily herself was part of the manners and traditions of the Old South, much like the relics that the young Faulkner loved to hear about from his grandfather, who, like Emily's father, was a proud and indomitable representative of a bygone era. Also, as a youth, Faulkner was known for having a penchant for isolation and detached observation, two qualities that provided him the ability to retell events from the past.

  • Tragic Lives of the Past

About "A Rose for Emily" Faulkner wrote, 

The title was an allegorical title; the meaning here was a woman who had had a tragedy, an irrevocable tragedy and nothing could be done about it, and I pitied her and this was a salute...to a woman you would hand a rose.

Faulkner, too, had a sense of the tragic as, like Emily, he found himself caught between the past for which he had a strong love and the present, about which he was ambivalent. Each of them "clung to that which had robbed them." Emily kept the memory of her father, and she preserved her lover; Faulkner retained the memory of his grandfather in his characters and the tales of the Old South, and he preserved his love of the South in his literature.

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A Rose for Emily

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