In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," how does Emily attempt to control time and circumstances?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," his main character is, essentially "lost in time."  Representative of the Old South, Emily is the dutiful daughter of the Southern patriarch, whose behavior is in compliance with the dictates of the Southern gentry.  For instance, her male callers are rejected as they do not meet the standards of her father, and she mouths the directives of her father when she tells the alderman, the "the next generation," that she does not have to pay taxes because her father had an agreement with Colonel Sartoris; she even tries to deny her father's death, for she loses her identity if she loses him.

However, after her father is interred, Emily is forced to create some existence for herself:

Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized....with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

It is at this point in the narrative that Emily deteriorates further psychologically.  When the townspeople see her again, she has cut her hair short,

making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows--sort of tragic and serene.

In order to control time and circumstances, thus, Emily has tragically regressed; she attempts to restart her life, perhaps  imagining herself a young woman again with suitors.  Oddly, she goes out with Homer Barron, a lower-class Northerner--certainly, a man of whom her father would have disapproved.  But, Emily may imagine that Homer is otherwise as she forgets what the scornful townspeople call noblesse oblige.

It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted [lacked] that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness.

Fallen, Emily is deluded that she retains her aristocratic status.  However, the disappearance of Homer Barron causes Emily to gray.  Then, she reemerges again as the aristocrat, albeit older; she teaches the lost art of painting china to children of the former aritocrats:

Thus she passed from generation to geration--dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.

Here Faulkner explains how Emily has fought against time:  She has refused to change, clinging to the old world that she has known, closing her doors to the modern world, stopping Homer Barron's abandonment of her, retaining her Negroe servant, dying

in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain...on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.

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