A Rose for Emily Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

A Rose for Emily book cover
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What does the following excerpt tell us about the relationship between Miss Emily and the townspeople: “…and the very old men—some in their brushed Confederate uniforms—on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.”

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This excerpt comes toward the end of the story, shortly before the narrator talks about "the reveal" that nobody really saw coming.

What it tells us about the relationship between Emily and her community is essentially that she has always been idealized in life, and will continue to be legendary now in death.

There are many reasons why the community builds Emily up and down so much. First, because she comes from a family that symbolized the very ideals that those men in their "brushed Confederate uniforms" defended. She is a stamp from the past and a representative of that generation. She was not in the same line as the "very old men", but remember what was said of her at the very beginning:

...the men (went to her funeral) through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.

This means that the Confederate veterans would have easily identified with someone like Emily, who was directly linked to the South's royalty of the past.

The second trait showing her relationship with her community is that, as someone who is enigmatic and "known" by everyone, she will inevitably cause more curiosity. The more she does, the more people look. This is why the townsfolk narrator feels sorry for her when her father dies. This compilation of voices that tell the story of Emily also root for her when she shows signs of independence after the death of her father, and almost feel happy for her for having found a man. The problem was that this man was Homer Barron, a drifter, a Yankee, and someone who is apparently not to be trusted. The voice of the town will also voice its dislike of the man.

All this being said, the excerpt just serves as further proof of how Emily's life was entirely lived under the scope of the town. She was central to it, perhaps because she is a symbol of the past and the present. However, she is now to be a town legend after the finding and she will surely continue to be at the center of many other enigmatic stories told of her. It is the way things go in small towns.

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