A Rose for Emily Summary and Analysis Section 1
by William Faulkner

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Summary and Analysis Section 1

New Characters
Narrator: Never named, the narrator of the story is a member of the town and has known Miss Emily much of her life. Some critics have suggested that the narrator is the town itself.

Miss Emily Grierson: The protagonist of the story, Miss Emily, as she is known and referred to by everyone, is the town matriarch.

Colonel Sartoris: In 1894, Colonel Sartoris, who was then the mayor of the town, remitted Miss Emily’s taxes, for unknown reasons, “in perpetuity.”

Tobe: A Negro “manservant” of Miss Emily’s, Tobe is the only person who has entered Miss Emily’s house for years.

“A Rose for Emily” begins with the death of Miss Emily Grierson, respectfully referred to by the nameless narrator of the story, as well as by the people of Jefferson—the town in which the story takes place—as Miss Emily. The narrator of the story tells how the whole town attended Miss Emily’s funeral—the men, out of respect for a “fallen monument,” and the women “out of curiosity to see the inside of her house.” The narrator goes on to describe Miss Emily’s “big, squarish frame house that had once been white” but had become, by the time of her death, “an eyesore among eyesores.” In the years leading up to Miss Emily’s death, only Miss Emily’s Negro manservant, whom will be later identified as Tobe, had seen the inside of the house, which had once been considered one of the nicest houses situated on one of the most select streets in the town. Over the years, however, the house had grown into disrepair, and garages and cotton gins had been built up around the street, adding to its garishness.

Miss Emily had grown to become a town legend by the time of her death. In 1894, the then mayor Colonel Sartoris remitted Miss Emily’s taxes “in perpetuity” for reasons never made clear. But over time, as a new generation of civic leaders arose, the town began to question Miss Emily’s privileged status. After the new mayor was unsuccessful in collecting taxes from her through the mail, the Board of Alderman sent a deputation to her house to meet with her. Miss Emily, “a small, fat woman in black,” met them at the door, and she told them that she had no taxes in Jefferson. “Colonel Sartoris explained it to me,” she told the group in a voice that “was dry and cold.” When the deputation continued to press Miss Emily, she responded by saying in a matter-of-fact tone, “See Colonel Sartoris,” even though the Colonel had been dead almost ten years.

The first section of “A Rose for Emily” concludes with Miss Emily asking Tobe to “[s]how these gentlemen out.”

“A Rose for Emily” is one of William Faulkner’s masterpieces of short fiction and is considered one of the great short stories in American literature. Told from the point of view of a nameless narrator and a longtime member of Jefferson, the town in which the story takes place, “A Rose for Emily” opens with the death of Miss Emily Grierson and proceeds to tell the story of her life in the years leading up to her death.

Considered one of the great writers of the twentieth century, Faulkner left behind a large body of work that effectively told the story of the American South, from the years following the Civil War to the Depression of 1929. More particularly, most of his stories and novels were set in the fictional county of Mississippi called Yoknapatawpha County, of which the town of Jefferson was the county seat.

Many of Faulkner’s trademarks as a writer are evident in “A Rose for Emily.” In many of his works, for instance, Faulkner pulls his reader along by withholding important pieces of information, leaving a great deal of work to the reader. In the opening section to “A Rose for Emily,” Faulkner provides only a few clues as to the time period of the story. The narrator mentions that in 1894 Colonel Sartoris, who was the mayor of Jefferson at the time, freed Miss Emily of all obligations to pay her taxes, “dating...

(The entire section is 1,400 words.)