What does "horse and foot" mean in "A Rose for Emily"?

"Horse and foot" in "A Rose for Emily" is a metaphor for the town's myriad attempts to get Miss Emily to pay her taxes. The town first sends her tax notices and letters, as if dispatching a cavalry on horseback to attack her. Then the mayor and aldermen come in person to her home, as if they are infantry soldiers. In both cases, Emily wins against them.

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The quote that Miss Emily "vanquished them, horse and foot" means she repelled attempts both at a distance and in person to get her to pay her taxes. It is a battle metaphor that describes the town's attempts to win a fight with her.

Years earlier, Colonel Sartoris , the...

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The quote that Miss Emily "vanquished them, horse and foot" means she repelled attempts both at a distance and in person to get her to pay her taxes. It is a battle metaphor that describes the town's attempts to win a fight with her.

Years earlier, Colonel Sartoris, the town's mayor, had invented a story to excuse Emily's cash strapped father from having to pay taxes. However, as power over time passed to more modern mayors and aldermen, they wanted his daughter, Miss Emily, to start to pay these taxes.

The first plan of attack was to send her tax notices in the mail. She ignored these. Finally, the mayor himself wrote her a formal note saying she needed to come in and discuss her tax issues—and wrote that he could send a car if needed. She wrote back that she didn't go out at all and mailed back the tax bill. This is the "horse" part of the mayor and aldermen's "attack" on Miss Emily to try to compel her to pay her taxes. A cavalry attack, on horseback, is not quite as up close and personal as infantry or foot attack.

The cavalry attack having failed, the men come to her front door. Now they represent an infantry of foot soldiers doing battle with her over the taxes. The men are invited in, but Miss Emily is an impregnable fortress who simply insists that she does not have to pay taxes. She tells them to see Colonel Sartoris, who died ten years before. Then she has them ushered out. At this point, we are told that she "vanquished them, horse and foot."

In the battle between modernity and the old ways, the old ways have won.

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"Horse and foot" refers to calvary and ground troops. William Faulkner is using the phrase as a synecdoche for the Board of Alderman.

Miss Emily refuses to her local tax bill. Colonel Sartoris, who led the town more than a decade before, had told her that she didn't need to, citing an invented story about her father loaning money to the town. When the new group of city leaders decides she should pay taxes, she refuses, based on what Colonel Sartoris told her.

Faulkner says that Miss Emily defeated the city representatives "horse and foot." He's referring to the men as if they're an army made up of infantry soldiers and mounted troops. By using this phrasing, he's setting up Emily's confrontation with the city officials as if it's a war she's winning.

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In the short story "A Rose for Emily," a deputation representing the Board of Alderman goes to Miss Emily's house to ask her to pay her overdue taxes. Prior to this visit, Miss Emily had been sent a tax notice signed by the sheriff informing her of her tax bill. She returned the tax notice and declined to visit the sheriff's office to discuss the matter.

When the deputation arrived at the house, Tobe, the "old Negro," showed the men into the parlor. Miss Emily entered the room, and the delegation believed that they could impress upon her the reality of the tax bill and the necessity for her to pay it. Unfortunately for the men, Miss Emily persisted in stating, "I have no taxes in Jefferson" (para 14). If they didn't believe her, she also told them they could take up the matter with Colonel Sartoris who had been long dead. The gentlemen left the house, defeated.

Therefore, in paragraph fifteen when Miss Emily vanquishes them horse and foot, is an allusion to the degree that she won the battle between the men's demand for her to pay the tax bill and her refusal to acknowledge it even existed. Horse refers to the cavalry, and foot refers to the infantry. These were the two main divisions for fighting a battle during the Civil War. Thus, she won the battle by metaphorically bringing out both the cavalry and the infantry. The men were soundly defeated.

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" Vanquish" is a potent in this story that looks back to the time of the civil war for its context.  To "vanquish" means to overcome, to conquer, and "vanquish horse and foot" resonates with civil war battles that the south ultimately lost. For a woman to vanquish men shows an upset of traditional roles, and indeed Emily, even though she is a traditional, southern lady--in fact, because she is a traditional southern lady-- has power over the town in such a way that they are afraid of her, and it is this distance that enables (or causes) her to deteriorate in the way she does in murdering (vanquishing) Homer and then preserving his body. 

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To "vanquish them horse and foot" means that she sent all comers away, be they on horses or walking.  Here she is not being compared to anything per se, but her actions help the townspeople excuse their behavior of allowing her to descend into such an abysmal state. 

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