Roses are flowers that are often associated with love and lovers, as lovers often give roses as tokens of their feelings. Poor Emily Grierson never seems to have experienced such a real, romantic love in her lifetime. The narrator describes "the young men her father had driven away" so that, when her father died, she really had no one else.
By the time Emily goes to the drug store to buy some poison, she is already over thirty, and this happens not very long after her father's death. Considering the era in which Emily lives, thirty is pretty old to be the object of someone's romantic advances or to be getting married. However, Emily has been in a relationship with a laborer from the North, a loud and brash man called Homer Barron. Everyone knows that he is an inappropriate choice for her, that her father would never have approved of her seeing him, but Emily seems not to care what others think. It is well known that Homer is not "a marrying man," and so when he, one day, disappears, everyone believes that he has abandoned Emily.
Emily, however, perhaps in her desperation not to be abandoned again, especially after her father's death left her so alone, murders Homer with the poison and keeps his moldering body in her own bed. In the absence of real romance, Emily creates a maudlin version of togetherness. It is both sad and creepy, and Faulkner, it seems, offers Emily the "rose" of the title as if in memory of the love she so long desired but never really received.