The Decline of the Old South is probably the most significant theme found in William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily." Miss Emily is a living symbol of the ante-bellum Civil War days: Hailing from what was once an aristocratic family (by Mississippi standards), Emily never forgets her high standing as a Grierson--even after her father dies, she finds no one suitable for marriage, and the money runs out. Like her old house, Emily is a relic of earlier days, and while the rest of the world grows up around her, Emily remains the same--unchanging to the end.
Death is another theme explored by Faulkner. It is something that Emily obviously does not accept, refusing to give up her father's body, and clinging to Homer's corpse decades after his death. Emily has figuratively died long before her own death, giving up any social contact and living in her "bloated body" with a "pallid hue." Isolation is another theme symbolized by Emily's self-seclusion within the Grierson home. She has little contact with others, and her tryst with Homer is one of the only times she is seen on the streets of Jefferson for any period of time. Mental illness is another theme embodied by Emily. Eccentric behavior and peculiar personal actions were common among many wealthy Southerners before the Civil War, and Emily and other members of the Grierson family suffered from such problems.