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After being denied so many times in her life, Miss Emily Grierson is unable change. In the exposition of "A Rose for Emily," the narrator describes her as "a fallen monument,"
Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care.
Further, the narrator describes Emily and her father,
We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a straddledsilhouette in the foreground.
And, even later in the narrative, after Homer Barron disappears, the narrator reflects,
...we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.
So subjugated by her patriarch, Emily never has been allowed to develop her own spirit, to become fully human. Instead, like the gold watch that extends the length of her person, Emily remains as she always has been and becomes impervious to time, having been repressed by the domination of her father turned away all her suitors, killing any future for Emily. Moreover, after his death, she yet clings to the only life she has known, standing in one of the windows "like the carven torso of an idol in a niche."
It is in this perceived posture that Emily passes "from generation to generation" as the duty and monument. Like the old Confederate soldiers who attend her funeral, Miss Emily's vision of 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.
She is only tranquil in her perverse and arrested perception of reality, marriage to Homer Barron through death, which ends all time, once again clinging to "that which had robbed her."
A key to this story is Faulkner's famous observation about the past -- that the "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Emily lives life in a seamless time continuum with a past that continues, if blurred, through perhaps her own cataract eyes, until her death and eternity.
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