What is Emily's character like in terms of conflict? The conflict in this story " A Rose for Emily"

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The nature of Emily's conflicts often boil down to a conflict between modes of perception. She sees herself as a person owning certain rights and honors. Others do not see her this way.

The pride she bears in situations of conflict demonstrates her own honorific perception of herself and her status. The baffled response on the part of those who encounter her in conflict show that they see her differently and also have a hard time understanding how she can maintain such pride and haughty airs.  

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It's easy to say there's a conflict between Emily and the town; however, as clairewait points out so well, there is never any confrontation.  They want her to pay taxes; she doesn't do so.  They've had complaints about a smell coming from her house; rather than mention it to her and risk offending her genteel sensibilities (or more likely because they know nothing will happen even if they do confront her), they simply sneak in like hooligans and place lime around the foundation.  There is a rule regarding the purchase of arsenic; they choose not to enforce that rule for Emily.  Homer wants (tries? threatens?) to leave; Emily simply forces him to stay--permanently.  Her "female relatives" came and stayed--until it became too uncomfortable for them, not Emily, to do so. The Baptist minister went to lecture Emily on her apparent immoral behavior; Emily stayed and did not change her bahavior, and he refused ever to go back--or to even speak about their meeting. 

Emily is like teflon, in that nothing sticks to her.  She's also like the careless driver who is never in a wreck but leaves plenty of them in her wake.  Conflict?  What conflict? 

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To add to the conflict of the Old South vs. the North:

The intrusion of the crude Homer Barron upon the scene indicates further the conquering ("Barron") of the industrial North over the Old South as represented by the "monument" Emily Grierson, one of the last of the aristocratic South. 

Interestingly and sadly, when Emily dies, the old soldiers attend in their Confederate uniforms, believing that they once danced with Emily; however, it is all an attempt to keep the dream of the Old South alive, a dream that has died along with all the Griersons.

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When it comes to conflict, Miss Emily is withdrawn, non-confrontational, somewhat arrogant, and completely calm.

When a new generation emerges to come collect her unpaid taxes, Miss Emily meets them and says very simply:

I have no taxes in Jefferson.  Colone Sartoris explained it to me...I have no taxes in Jefferson...see Colonel Sartoris.

*Note, Colonel Sartoris has been dead several years.  Even as the men try to argue and explain, she stands firm.  She then dismisses them and the matter is closed.

Later, when buying poison, she demands "the best you have."  The druggist explains that arsenic is the best but in order to purchase it the buyer must state the intended use.  Emily does no such thing.

Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away...

Many have argued that Miss Emily's behavior was borderline nuts.  While this may be true, the fact is that her very demeanor pre-emptively strikes on conflict.  She causes others (willingly or not) to back down from it and from her.

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The main conflicts in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" are:

  • Woman vs. society: Miss Emily feels the Southern culture's pressures to be a married debutante instead of an Old Maid.  She also resents a nosy, gossipy society that wishes to intrude in not only her parlor but her bedroom secrets.  She uses marriage and murder as means to withdraw from society.  So says Enotes:

Community vs. Isolation
The odd relationship between the town of Jefferson and Emily is a recurrent theme in ‘‘A Rose for Emily.’’ At her funeral, the narrator notes that Emily has been ‘‘a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town.’’ However, Emily has very little to do with the townspeople during her life. Her father prevents her from dating anyone because he doesn’t believe any of the men in Jefferson are good enough for her, and after his death, Emily continues to isolate herself from the rest of the community for the better part of her life. The only notable exceptions to her isolation are her Sunday rides with Homer Barron, her shopping trips for arsenic and men’s clothing, and the china-painting lessons she gives to the young women of the town for a few years. These exceptions only serve to show how alienated Emily is from the rest of Jefferson.

  • Woman vs. past: Miss Emily lives in the past, when she was a girl under the protection of her father.  She refuses to give up his dead body.  She has been conditioned to champion the male patriarchy honor culture.
  • Woman vs. self: Miss Emily battles mental problems, insecurities, fears, and paranoia.  Rather than deal with these problems openly, she secludes herself--living in her own delusional world.
  • South vs. North: Miss Emily resents the intrusion of the Northerner Homer Baron.  She would rather murder the symbolic "carpetbagger" and sleep with his dead body than openly see him fraternizing in her culture.
  • Women vs. men: Miss Emily has problems dealing with the Southern aristocratic culture that views female status as based on her spouse's reputation and her role as social butterfly and a source of gossip in the community.
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