What is the purpose of the story, A Rose for Emily?  

Expert Answers
Jessica Akcinar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

‘‘A Rose for Emily’’ serves many purposes, some of those being an allegory of the relations between North and South, a study in abnormal psychology, as well as a commentary on perspective.

The story is set in the South in the early 1900s and flashbacks into the late 1800s, when the relationship between the Northern and Southern states was tense to say the least. Emily Grierson, the heroine of the story and a Southerner from a respectable family, begins a courtship with a Northern day laborer. This sets the small town afire with rumors and gossip, and even prompts the town preacher to visit Emily and urge her to end the relationship. Furthermore, Homer Baron, Emily’s Northern boyfriend, is described unfavorably as a drinker and a man with loose morals, so this may be a commentary on how the South viewed the North.

Throughout the story, we also find that Emily most likely suffers from mental illness, like her aunt did. She was most likely emotionally abused by her father, was secluded from society, and had a nervous breakdown when her father died, prompting her to keep his rotting body in the house for several days. In the resolution of the story, our suspicions of mental illness are confirmed when it is discovered that Emily had killed her lover years before and had been sleeping nest to his corpse for decades.

Finally, the fact that the narrator of the story seems to represent the entire town gives us an insight into perspective. What the town sees and how the people view Emily is not always the truth. The townspeople’s perspective of Emily evolves throughout the story, starting with a bit of jealousy and dislike due to her family’s haute status and the fact the Griers did not socialize with others,  to pity when they believe Emily has been abandoned by her lover, to, finally, horror and disgust when they discover Homer’s  body. This makes the reader realize that the eye can be deceiving and that we really don’t know our neighbors.