Last Updated on January 20, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 878
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"
VI. Symbols of historical change at Miss Emily’s funeral
A. “Very old men” wearing Confederate uniforms
B. Father’s picture “musing profoundly”
C. Ladies “sibilant and macabre”
D. Long passage of the old viewing history as “a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches”
VII. Conclusion: Miss Emily represents a part of the South that its tradition and history has thwarted and prevented from growing in a healthy way. The town’s traditions and history ultimately drives Miss Emily mad and forces her into the inhumane act of killing Homer Barron and engaging in a form of necrophilia. Faulkner shows that the South, if it does not embrace the inevitability of historical and social change, will remain thwarted and die a perverse death like Miss Emily.
Although William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” has achieved widespread recognition over the years largely as a result of its “shocking” and “gothic-like” ending, Faulkner in fact prepares the reader for Homer Barron’s death at the hands of Miss Emily almost from the very beginning. Faulkner’s use of foreshadowing throughout the story contributes to the tight construction and thematic unity of the story, and allows the reader to accept the lovers’ fate as inevitable.
I. Thesis Statement: William Faulkner’s extensive use of foreshadowing in “A Rose for Emily” prepares the reader for the ultimate and shocking fate of Miss Emily and Homer Barron.
II. Definition of foreshadowing
A. Foreshadowing provides works with thematic and structural unity
B. Miss Emily’s death at beginning of story
1. Is mention of her death a “red herring” that keeps reader from focusing on Homer Barron?
2. Miss Emily’s death as a form of foreshadowing
III. Examples of foreshadowing
A. Description in Section I of Miss Emily’s “skeleton”
B. Reference to “the smell” in Section II
C. The arsenic “for rats” in Section III
D. The mention of “the last we saw of Homer Barron” juxtaposed with the narrator’s recollection of the sprinkling of the lime in Section IV
E. Tobe’s immediate disappearance at the start of Section V
IV. Effects of the foreshadowing
A. Prepares reader for final ending
B. Although the ending remains “shocking,” Faulkner’s use of foreshadowing elevates the writing from a mere story with gothic shock value
C. Faulkner’s use of the technique lends a structural unity to the story
V. Conclusion: Faulkner’s extensive use of foreshadowing not only prepares the reader for what would otherwise be a gratuitously shocking ending, but it also provides the story with a structural and thematic unity that helps to elevate it above the realm of gothic writing.