What is the historical context of "A Rose for Emily," and how does Faulkner use the South after the Civil War in this story?Writing a research paper on this and need to know the significance of the...

What is the historical context of "A Rose for Emily," and how does Faulkner use the South after the Civil War in this story?

Writing a research paper on this and need to know the significance of the South during Reconstruction.

Asked on by debbie121

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Miss Emily is a living testament to the Civil War, having been born shortly before or during the War Between the States. She bridges the years before the war and the turn of the century, symbolizing the values of the Old South and its resistance to change during the decades following the war. The Griersons had been an important and wealthy family during the ante-bellum years but, like many rich Southerners, their fortunes were lost following the surrender. Emily, like others who had been a part of the pre-war Southern aristocracy, was unwilling to accept her new and reduced social status. "When the next generation, with its more modern ideas" became the driving force in Jefferson, Emily became a living relic of the past. She was a product of a different time, and she lived her life as she had been brought up--as a person of privilege. She romanced a Yankee, not because she knew better than to dally with Mississippi's old enemy, but because she had no other marital opportunities. She courted him unescorted on Sundays--still a social faux pas--because she considered herself

... higher than what (she) really was.

Her disregard for murder was not unlike her decision to disregard the tax notices. She felt that, as a Grierson, she was above the law and any social mores that others may observe. Like the old Southern aristocrats, she

... passed from generation to generation--dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil and perverse.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Set in the post-bellum South, "A Rose for Emily" is the tragic story of a woman for whom time has passed her by. In a sense, Miss Emily Grierson represents the inability of the South to adjust to the changes imposed upon it.

After her father dies, Miss Emily becomes "a hereditary obligation upon the town" as she does not believe that she must pay taxes since the matter has long ago been taken care of by Colonel Sartoris. But, what Miss Emily does not realize is the fact that Colonel Sartoris has been dead for ten years. In her delusional state, Emily Grierson lives in the past, an anachronism in the post-bellum South that finds itself changing.

Further, Miss Emily refuses to believe that her father has died because with his death, her life loses its framework. She holds tenaciously onto the portrait of her father, a symbol of the oppressive hold of the past.

...we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

In the new South after the Civil War, there is the introduction of industrialization and some men from the North enter. When a certain Yankee boss comes upon the scene, Miss Emily goes for rides with him. The townspeople are at first grateful that she has a romantic interest; however, later on, there are whispers that Miss Emily has forgotten noblesse oblige with her choice of a Northerner, as well as her unchaperoned outings.

After her Alabama relatives come to visit Emily in order to dissuade her from becoming romantically involved with the laborer Homer Barron, Miss Emily visits the apothecary for poison. When the druggist looks "down at her," Miss Emily "looked back at him, erect, her face like a strained flag. She does not answer him, yet exerting her aristocratic attitude, when he informs her that he is required by law to know the purpose for which she purchases this arsenic.

Once Homer is no longer seen, Miss Emily becomes reclusive except for the china-painting lessons that girls take at her house, a form of cloaked charity from the women in town. Only the "old Negro" is observed going into and out of the house as Emily Grierson retreats into the past, unable to reconstruct her life. Ironically, after she dies, some of the old men in their "brushed Confederate uniforms" imagine that they courted her at one time, reconstructing the past for their own sakes.

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