What are your analysis, thesis, and argument about William Faulkner's story A Rose for Emily? Why doesn't Emily pay her taxes?  If you have figured out some of the secrets between Emily and her...

What are your analysis, thesis, and argument about William Faulkner's story A Rose for Emily?

Why doesn't Emily pay her taxes?  If you have figured out some of the secrets between Emily and her father, among Emily, her father, and Tobe, you probably can imagine the deal between father and friend, Col. Sartoris. Please give evidence.

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Faulkner’s short story A Rose for Emily is about a reclusive aging woman, a spinster in the language of the time, who is the subject of much town gossip as well as the target of the city’s efforts at collecting overdue taxes.  Faulkner’s short story, of course, falls into the category of the macabre, but for reasons not readily apparent until one has read the entirety of the story.  Until the final denouement, all the reader knows is that Emily was insulated from society and kept from marrying by a protective father who has long since passed.  The mayor at the time of her father’s passing, Colonel Sartoris, had arranged for the deceased’s daughter to be exempt from having to pay taxes on the basis of a fictitious story about her father having once loaned the town money that is being gradually repaid through this special dispensation for Emily.  As Faulkner describes the arrangement:

“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor—he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron—remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity.”

The passing of years and the ascent of new generations of town leaders, however, rendered that arrangement moot.  That Emily remained obstinate and clearly delusional, however, is evident in the following passage in which some of the town’s officials have paid her a visit to discuss the issue of taxes, only to be met with a reply indicating a serious departure from reality:

“Her voice was dry and cold. ‘I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves.’

‘But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?’

‘I received a paper, yes,’ Miss Emily said. ‘Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff. . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson.’

‘But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see. We must go by the—'

‘See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson.’

‘But, Miss Emily—'

‘See Colonel Sartoris.’ (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.) ‘I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!’ The Negro appeared. ‘Show these gentlemen out.’"

This exchange between Emily and the town officials illustrates the extent of her delusions.  She refuses to pay taxes because she is convinced that an arrangement that preceded these gentlemen remains valid and that her protector in such matters, the late colonel, is still in office.

As noted earlier, the full extent of Emily’s dysfunctional mental state only becomes fully clear with the revelation at the story’s end that she has killed Homer Barron, the “big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face” who came from up north, “a Yankee,” as foreman of a construction crew, and kept his decaying corpse in her bed, while she slept nights next to it. 

Faulkner made very clear that Emily was a product of her upbringing.  Her father was a formidable man who was well-respected, but he kept his daughter from being pursued by eligible men so that he could keep her to himself.  As the story’s narrator declares, “none of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such.”  There is no overt hint of an incestuous relationship, but the father rejected male callers and raised Emily in such a way that she became a sociopathic figure.  One clue to the questionable nature of the father-daughter relationship is offered in the following observation by the narrator:

“We had long thought of them as a tableau; Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door.”

Emily’s father, an unseen but definitely felt presence, did incalculable damage to his daughter’s mental state by keeping her insulated from society and fully dependent upon him.  His death inevitably left an enormous vacuum in Emily’s life that was never filled, except by the attentions of this visiting construction foreman, Homer Barron.  When the construction job is finished, Homer disappears, presumably, as far as the town’s people are concerned, returned to the North.  Emily’s interest in purchasing arsenic was peculiar, but the town only belatedly put two-and-two together after she dies and they are finally able to enter and search her now-dilapidated house.  Emily, it turns out, had murdered Homer to keep him from leaving town, and then carried on around town as if he were still alive and the two were to be married.

Emily was raised to be a Southern Belle minus the usually-obligatory societal announcement of an engagement.  Her father had spurned all potential suitors for her hand, and left behind a lonely, pathetic, delusional sociopath.  A Rose for Emily is a tragedy, but more in the gothic sense than in the Shakespearean sense.  As for Tobe – a name associated with slavery – his is a tragic existence in that, as an African American in the Deep South, he has no real options save his continued devotion to the care of Miss Emily.  Faulkner’s story is replete with examples of the racism endemic in that time and place, and which is commonly associated with this author’s writings. 

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A Rose for Emily

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