Download A Rose for Emily Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Sample Essay Outlines

  • Topic #1

    Faulkner uses “A Rose for Emily” to address themes of change and progress, especially as it relates to the American South. Although he describes particular individuals within Jefferson (Miss Emily, the older men and ladies, the town leaders), he seems to be using them as symbols for the larger issues that the South was facing at the turn of the twentieth century. Write a paper that discusses how Faulkner addresses the themes of progress and change in the South. Is he a traditionalist, hoping for the South to retain its old ways? Or is he critical of the South for holding on to its traditions?

    I. Thesis Statement: William Faulkner uses “A Rose for Emily” to comment on how the South, at its own peril, is refusing to accept the inevitability of historical and social change. If the South does not adopt to the changing times, it will die a lonely, perverse death like Miss Emily.

    II. The South as a region “bound” by history and tradition
    A. The influences of class and social rank
    1. The role of titles such as “Colonel” and “Miss”
    2. The town’s perception of Miss Emily’s house
    a. Was once located near “august” names
    B. The issues of race
    1. Tobe, the manservant
    2. Colonel Sartoris’s edict regarding “Negro women”
    C. Sexual relations
    1. Judge Stevens’s refusal to address Miss Emily, a “lady,” directly regarding “the smell”
    2. The expectations of marriage for young women
    a. Marriage within social class
    b. Marriage within “the tribe” (i.e., southern, white, gentility)

    III. Miss Emily as a woman “bound” by the South's tradition
    A. The influence of the father of Miss Emily
    1. “All the young men her father had driven away”
    2. “She would have clung to that which had robbed her”
    B. The pressures of the “town ladies”
    1. “Noblesse oblige”
    2. The pressures of marrying a Southern gentleman
    a. Homer Barron’s unworthiness as a Northern laborer
    C. The negative connotations of “spinsterhood”
    D. The pressures of public conformity
    1. Town reaction to Miss Emily’s public display of affection

    IV. Miss Emily, as a representative of a desire for change, is thwarted
    A. Her father keeps men from her, as is the custom of family structures
    B. The town criticizes her for Homer Barron, as is the custom of male-female relationships
    C. The town, as symbolized by the actions of Judge Stevens, treats her as a “lady” and not as an independent person

    V. Miss Emily’s father’s and the town’s refusal to accept Miss Emily for who she is drives her mad
    A. Miss Emily reacts against Homer Barron
    B. Miss Emily, unable to fit in, becomes a recluse
    C. Like the South in general, Miss Emily “clings to that which has robbed her"


(The entire section is 903 words.)