Throughout William Faulkner’s story, the unnamed first-person narrator emphasizes the extent to which Emily resisted authority. According to the narrator, she pulled away from taking responsibility for many mundane activities such as paying taxes and the authorities simply did not press her to comply. Respect for her family’s previous social status was apparently the motivation for this kind of favorable treatment, which the narrator calls a “hereditary obligation.”
After Emily’s father died, the mayor, Colonel Sartoris, began the custom of remitting her taxes. Sartoris disguised this charity as the repayment of a loan her father had supposedly made to the town.
This system continued for an entire generation, but those who succeeded Sartoris had different ideas. The ”more modern” mayors and aldermen were dissatisfied with this fiction—and especially with not receiving the income. Mailing the tax notice and later sending a formal letter to her home produced no effect. A third attempt, offering to bring her to the office, did generate a reply, in which her hand-written message conveyed “that she no longer went out at all.” The unpaid notice was returned.
After the aldermen had a meeting, they called on her at home. She simply refused to consider the situation further, flatly insisting that Colonel Sartoris had settled it long ago: “I have no taxes in Jefferson.” In this way, the narrator concludes, “she vanquished them.”