In "A Rose for Emily," how are women represented and marginalized?
Faulkner portrays how women are marginalized throughout the south by illustrating Emily Grierson's relationship with her oppressive father. Emily's father is portrayed as a strict man, who severely limits Emily's abilities to socialize and date throughout the town of Jefferson. Emily's relationship with her father is best represented by the tableau of their family, where Emily's father is standing in the foreground holding a horsewhip with his back to his daughter. Emily is depicted as dependent on male figures throughout the short story, even refusing to acknowledge her father's death. The crayon portrait of Emily's father in her living room also symbolizes his constant "supervision" and influence on his daughter, even after his death.
Faulkner portrays the other women of Jefferson as gossiping busybodies. They criticize Emily's relationship with Homer Barron and only attend Emily's funeral out of curiosity, while the men attend to show respect for the "fallen monument." Overall, the southern town of Jefferson is depicted as a male-dominated society, where women live in the shadows of their fathers or husbands. The women are treated as timid, delicate individuals, who lack independence and depth of character.
Specific women, except for Emily, play insignificant roles in the story. Women are cast instead as members of the town who gossiped continually about Emily when she was alive and can't wait, after her death, to get inside her house and snoop around. In the opening of the story, Faulkner draws an immediate distinction between the men of Jefferson and the women. The men attend Emily's funeral out of some respect and affection. The women go because they are nosy.
Emily's life represents the role of women in her post-Civil War culture. She is completely dependent upon her father who rules over Emily's life as a tyrant. When she was young, he ran off any man who showed interest in her. When she was old, he died, leaving her with nothing except her history with him. Because Emily's dependence on her father had been so all encompassing, she cannot bear to accept his death, refusing for several days to let his body be carried from the house. Emily's descent into madness emphasizes finally and dramatically how Emily's life was controlled and destroyed, first by her father and later by the power of tradition in Jefferson.
Miss Emily's life is dominated by a controlling father. It is because of him that she finds herself alone after his death. Because he prevented her from marrying, he did not believe that any of her suitors were worthy of her, she is depicted as a lonely spinster. This is not her fault.
When Emily meets Homer Barron, he too tries to dismiss her, to marginalize her needs, clearly he should not have gone on carriage rides with her if he was never interested in her in a romantic way. He makes a fool of her in front of the whole town, first because she has put aside the fact that he is a Yankee and allowed herself to associate with him. Then, when everyone thinks that they are going to get married, he disappears.
Once again, Miss Emily is left alone by a controlling man, or so it seems to the town.
Miss Emily does manage to escape the prejudice of the men in this story. She sidesteps paying her taxes, she takes up with a Yankee, something that would have horrified her father, and she kills Homer Barron, for thinking that he had a right to leave her.