Introduction to A Rose for Emily

William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” was published in the April 30th,1930, edition of Forum magazine. It was Faulkner’s first short story to be published in a notable periodical. Though it received minimal attention after its first publication, “A Rose For Emily” has become one of Faulkner’s most popular works. Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949 and is now hailed as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. His works deal primarily with the cultural shifts that occurred in the post–Civil War South. “A Rose For Emily” is one of many of Faulkner’s works, such as Sartoris, to be set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi.

“A Rose For Emily” uses a nonchronological structure to tell the story of Emily Grierson. Emily, a faded Southern belle, dies at the age of seventy-four after leading an isolated life. The curious townsfolk come together for her funeral and reflect on her history in Jefferson, Mississippi. Their recollections include the details of Emily’s scandalous relationship with a Northern laborer named Homer Barron. The narrator uses the collective pronoun “we” in order to give the sense that the entire town is reflecting on Emily’s life. The story is sometimes read as an allegory for the resistance of the Old South, as represented by Emily, to modernization, as represented by both Homer and the younger generations of Jefferson.

A Brief Biography of William Faulkner

William Cuthbert Faulkner (1897–1962) was a celebrated author and poet whose works were heavily inspired by the culture, society, and values of the American South. Faulkner was raised primarily in Oxford, Mississippi, and he took an early interest in the history of the region, due in part to the stories he grew up hearing about his own ancestors. Faulkner’s namesake, his grandfather William Clark Falkner, was a Colonel in the Confederate army, and tales of his escapades were particularly popular among his descendants. Indeed, a young Faulkner’s fascination with history was so strong that it impacted his schoolwork, and he never formally graduated from high school. However, he was an avid reader, as was encouraged by his mother, grandmother, and nanny, all of whom also contributed to Faulkner’s interest in exploring gender, sexuality, and race in his fiction. Many of his works are set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, a Southern setting that closely resembles the real-world Lafayette county and its struggles with race, gender, and social stratification in the Antebellum period.

Faulkner’s early efforts in literature were not met with immediate success. His individualistic and oftentimes experimental approach—as well as his perceived criticism of Southern values—often left him at odds with his publishers and the reading public. Following the initial rejection of his third novel, Sartoris, he became disillusioned with the publishing industry as a whole and instead began to focus on his own development as an artist. This period led to the production of some of his most acclaimed works, including The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. He later achieved widespread success as both an author and a scriptwriter, and he received the 1949 Nobel Prize in literature.

Frequently Asked Questions about A Rose for Emily

A Rose for Emily

In "A Rose for Emily," William Faulkner wants to say something about contemporary Southern society. Therefore, he writes about a small fictitious town in his native Mississippi called Jefferson...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 11:52 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

Emily Grierson is highly regarded in the small Southern town of Jefferson. Despite being highly eccentric and standoffish, she's something of a local celebrity on account of her being the last...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 11:08 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

Miss Emily Grierson goes to the druggist in search of poison. She declares that she does not care what kind it is, but only that she wants "the best." The druggist names and describes several...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 11:36 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

In the second section of the short story "A Rose for Emily," the narrator describes an awful smell emanating from Miss Emily Grierson's home shortly after her sweetheart Homer Barron deserts her....

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 1:44 pm (UTC)

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A Rose for Emily

The timeline of "A Rose for Emily" is disrupted, beginning with her funeral and circling back to the main events of her life. The story ends, however, after Emily is "decently in the ground," with...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 11:16 am (UTC)

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A Rose for Emily

This is an interesting question with two possible and perhaps equally defensible answers. One could argue that Miss Emily Grierson is the main character of the story, certainly; however, one could...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 12:17 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

To put it simply, the people of the small Southern town of Jefferson are stuck in the past. Life in the present is not much to write home about, and the future doesn't look like it's going to be...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 11:19 am (UTC)

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A Rose for Emily

Miss Emily Grierson does purchase a number of expensive gifts for Homer Barron, and these gifts lead people in the town to believe that they are going to be married or even that they already are....

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 11:50 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

William Faulkner wrote this classic short story, widely considered to be his best work, in 1929. It was published in 1930. "A Rose for Emily" is the somewhat macabre tale of the death and funeral...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 11:28 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

When Miss Emily's relationship with Homer Barron begins to excite comment in Jefferson, some of the ladies in town force the Baptist minister to call on her. The Griersons are Episcopalian, which...

Latest answer posted September 20, 2020, 11:45 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

Emily Grierson is a symbol of the Old South and its refusal to die in the face of modernity. The townspeople certainly consider Emily to be as much. When she dies, many come to her funeral, because...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 11:44 am (UTC)

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A Rose for Emily

Miss Emily comes from a privileged family, and the townspeople therefore expect her to behave in certain ways. Because her family has always enjoyed financial success and the respect of the town,...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 12:03 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

"A Rose for Emily" is a classic example of Southern gothic literature. As one can probably glean from the genre's name, Southern gothic literature is essentially gothic fiction set in the American...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 11:19 am (UTC)

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A Rose for Emily

Miss Emily Grierson's home is located on what had been the "most select street" in Jefferson, Mississippi. Miss Emily resides in a grand but decaying home that is now considered an eyesore and...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 1:14 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

In the first sentence of "A Rose for Emily," Faulkner's unnamed narrator says that everyone in Jefferson came to Emily's funeral and makes a distinction between the reasons the men and the women...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 11:37 am (UTC)

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A Rose for Emily

Emily's isolation is explored in several ways throughout "A Rose for Emily." Early in her life, Emily is isolated by her father's social pretensions. The Griersons regard themselves as superior to...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 11:15 am (UTC)

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A Rose for Emily

In Faulkner's classic short story "A Rose for Emily," Miss Emily Grierson is portrayed as an eccentric, mentally unstable recluse who allows time to pass her by and symbolically represents the...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 4:34 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

This is a common question, and readers of this gothic short story have speculated on Emily Grierson's mental illness since the story was written. Since her symptoms are only hinted about in the...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Rose for Emily

Emily Grierson dies of an unnamed illness in "A Rose for Emily." Without a doubt, her advanced age also contributed to her end. She lived to be quite old, to the point where the town she lived in...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 11:32 am (UTC)

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A Rose for Emily

Roses are flowers that are often associated with love and lovers, as lovers often give roses as tokens of their feelings. Poor Emily Grierson never seems to have experienced such a real, romantic...

Latest answer posted September 19, 2020, 12:18 pm (UTC)

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