What is a good one sentence summary for "A Rose For Emily" by William Faulkner?

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

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In summarizing William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," I would look to the primary aspects of the tale—but perhaps not so much to the details as to the larger picture.

For instance, we know that Miss Emily is what the townspeople refer to as a "fallen monument."

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument...

There is a double entendre used here: a "fallen monument" could refer to the fact that Emily was once important in another era, but like a statue that may break or sag over time, is no longer of importance. However, the women in the town believe that Emily has slept with Homer Barron, and they see her in the sense of a "fallen woman"—a woman who is no longer pure or respectable.

While today considered anachronistic and misogynistic, the term fallen woman was once used as a euphemism for someone who lost her innocence, or "had surrendered her chastity".

This is one aspect of Emily. Another important aspect is that she is someone who cannot be controlled by any man or even a collection of men, as seen when the Board of Aldermen try to collect her back taxes.

Her voice was dry and cold. "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves."...

"But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see. We must go by—"

"See Colonel Sartoris...I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!...Show these gentlemen out."

She "vanquishes" them easily. So Emily is, since her father died, a force to be reckoned with: she has lived her life on her terms, regardless of how her cousins or the members of the community have felt about it. This is another important aspect of Faulkner's unusual protagonist.

Certainly, the last and most haunting aspects of Miss Emily are her seeming madness, and her "control"—"till death do us part" control—regarding the "long absent" Homer Barron—who the town believed had just left Miss Emily, never to return. In truth, we learn she poisoned him, kept his body in their "bridal chamber," and—most horrific of all—has been sleeping along side his corpse since that time. We know this because the hair on the pillow is the color of an older Miss Emily, not a young one.

The man himself lay in the bed.

For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him...Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it...a long strand of irony-gray hair.

This could arguably be the most haunting and "impressive" aspect of Miss Emily and her life—the person she was. To write one sentence, I would consider all of these aspects of Miss Emily's character, and would write something similar to:

In the Old South, when men controlled every aspect of life, including their women, Miss Emily chose to be the "mistress" of her own destiny; she defied the local government, her family, the expectations of her neighbors, and love itself—by not only refusing to adhere to the expectations of her society, but (in seeming madness) by joining the man she loved to her...not in marriage...but through his murder, "living with him" for the remainder of her life.

(This is, with correct punctuation, not a run-on sentence.)

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