What is the role of tradition in "A Rose for Emily"? While, I understand the role of tradition in Emily's specific actions and perceived thoughts and also the actions and thoughts of the...

What is the role of tradition in "A Rose for Emily"?

While, I understand the role of tradition in Emily's specific actions and perceived thoughts and also the actions and thoughts of the townspeople towards her, I am having difficulty summarizing the overall role of tradition in regards to Emily?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You have summarized the role of tradition very well for the story.  I'll try to add what I can, but don't underestimate your understanding.

I think the only thing you haven't touched upon is that tradition controls the actions of both the town and Emily herself.  The story encapsulates the importance tradition holds for a Southern community.  The US Civil War was largely an issue of lifestyle.  Southerners clung fiercely to the lifestyle they had cultivated, and slaves were an integral part of that.  When slavery fell, and then the South fell, the lifestyle was torn apart.  The economy changed.  The old-time families lost their position with their income.  Carpetbaggers infiltrated the area, and the native Southerners felt dispossessed and invaded.  Because they could do so little, they clung to their standards of behavior.

These standards of behavior control Emily's town and Emily herself.  So much of the story is foreign to its readers - that the town wouldn't force its way into Emily's home, that Emily allowed herself to be controlled by her father and the townspeople themselves didn't question it.  But that was traditional behavior.  By clinging to tradition, this town is unable to move on.  Symbolically, Emily is also unable to move on - thus the dramatic ending when the skeleton of the dead body is found.  Tradition can work against the people as well as for them.

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A Rose for Emily

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