A Rose for Emily Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

A Rose for Emily book cover
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What is the message in the story "A Rose for Emily"?  

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While her father was alive, Miss Emily Grierson evidently lived by the traditions and mores of the Old South. Her father apparently chased away all the suitors who came to woo her; the narrator says that "None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such." He isolated her, treating her like some prize to be won, and then he died, abandoning her and leaving her completely alone. Her marriage would have had to be brokered by him, and his death meant that there was no one to serve in this capacity. Had Miss Emily been able to make her own decisions during his life, perhaps she would not have found herself in such a pitiable situation. She must have feared being alone more than anything else, so much so that she was unwilling to admit that her father had died and that she was willing to kill Homer Barron in order to keep him with her. After her father's death, the people in town "remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will." All this conveys a few key messages. First, there is little worse than being left alone. We see this in Miss Emily's responses to loss or potential loss. Second, women need to be allowed to make their own choices.

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Although this story is not an allegory ( a tale with a moral message), it does contain several themes. One of the themes concerns the decay of the Old South. Emily grows up in a society where women are not supposed to work and they are supposed to be taken care of by men. However, she is left penniless by her own father and is too old to be considered marriageable by that time. Thus, she is trapped in a world that she was not raised for. Yet, she continues to live as if the old times were still meaningful. When this does not get her what she wants and needs, she resorts to desperate means in order to get what she wants. A corollary to that theme is the idea of "community vs. isolation". Because of their belief in different social groups, Emily is left alone to deal with all of her problems. The town people think they are being respectful, but they are actually contributing to Emily's feelings of abandonment and isolation, So she loses touch with reality and the results are tragic.

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