What is the predominant issue addressed by the author in "A Rose for Emily"?What is the Predominant issue addressed by the author in "A Rose for Emily"?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Death is the predominant issue/motif.  While real deaths are discussed in the narrative:

  • Emily's death is mentioned in the first section
  • Emily's father's death is mentioned in reference to her refusal to pay taxes, and his portrait hangs over her.
  • Emily looks figuratively like a dead person as she looks at the alderman, "Her skeleton was small and spare....She looked bloated, like a body long sumerged in motionless water..."
  • She denies that her father is dead and keeps him in the house three days.
  • When the men creep around her house to find the source of the rank smell, Miss Emile sit upright, motionless.,"like an icon." (an inanimate object made after a dead saint, etc.)
  • The madness and death of old lady Wyatt, Emily's great-aunt is also mentioned.
  • The final mention of Emily's death in the bedroom at the end.

figuratively death casts a pall on much of the narrative, especially over Emily, who in the end becomes the lover of death, both literally and figuratively herself as evinced by her having killed Homer and having lain beside his dead body.  In addition, there is the figurative death of the Old South as represented by Emily's clinging to the ways of the Southern gentry and the old attendants at her funeral, who wear their Confederate uniforms and dream that they have once danced with Emily.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You will no doubt get many different answers to this question, since the story has many important themes. However, my own thought is that this story addresses the issue of how one generation can cripple the next. This theme is borne out by the ghost of Miss Emily's father, hanging on the wall in portrait form.  Miss Emily stayed home to take care of her father, was forced to pass over potential suitors because of her father's impossible standards, which reflected days long gone and the motivation to keep Miss Emily there caring for him, and ultimately, was not only not able to lead a normal life, but also ended her life in desperate and impossible "love" next to a corpse, which was, in some ways, a symbol of hopes and dreams dead to her because of what her father had done to her.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are certainly plenty of themes and messages that come out of such a rich text as this excellent story. To a certain extent, each reader will take out different meanings. When I first read it, my first impression was of the isolation that people can have in their lives even if they live in the middle of a village or town. It amazes me that the townspeople were so uninvolved in Miss Emily's life and used her as a point of gossip, never trying to reach out or help her in her solitude. The few attempts they do make are quickly repelled and they never try again. I was left wondering how different the story could have been if they could have drawn closer to Miss Emily rather than regard her as something of a freak or a point of gossip.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like to read this story symbolically, somewhat along the lines of kplhardison.

The story features a character from the old South, as it were, who is incompatible with the new South. She chooses to believe that Colonel Sartoris is still alive and that the agreement she made with him not to pay taxes is a current agreement, still valid and still real. 

The fact is the world she once knew is no longer real. It has been replaced.

Miss Emily, however, chooses to prefer the dead world and to pretend that it is still alive. This is exemplified in the final detail of the story, where we discover that she has been lying with a corpse.  

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with a combination of Posts 2 and 4. 

This is a story about how one generation can destroy the next by denying the next generation the chance to truly grow.  In addition, it is a commentary on the patriarchal nature of the South's society.

Emily's father, acting as a Southern patriarch, controlled her life and denied her the chance to live a normal life with normal, loving relationships.  This drove her to do the things that we see her do in this story.

lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily's isolation drives her to desperate measures. She is so afraid of being alone, or so unwilling to be alone, until she murders Homer Baron to keep him in her bed. She doesn't enjoy sleeping alone. Who does? However, most people do not go to the extreme that Emily goes to in order to have a companion. Isolation, along with an overly-strict father, can have devastating effects on a person like Emily, as is written in the story,

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This story demonstrates that clinging to the past prevents happiness in the present and, unless something changes, the future. It's certainly true of Emily, as she never really belongs to the world she should be in; instead, she lives in the past, the world her father trapped her in for the rest of her life. She becomes an anachronism.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The predominant issue addressed by Faulkner is the corruption and fall of the Old South. Emily's father and she are the metaphoric representations of the Old South's corruption, tyranny, destruction and decline, just as the family manor is equally a metaphor for the corruption, power and decline of the Old South.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it's about lost opportunities.  Emily could have had a different life.  To me, that is what the rose symbolizes.  It's not just mourning for Emily, but mourning for the life she might have had.  When we read this story, it should make us interested in living our life to the fullest, and not missing out.

Read the study guide:
A Rose for Emily

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question