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The treatment of Emily by the townspeople and her family in "A Rose for Emily."

Summary:

In "A Rose for Emily," Emily is treated with a mix of respect and pity by the townspeople, who see her as a reclusive figure from a bygone era. Her family, particularly her father, is overprotective and controlling, preventing her from forming meaningful relationships. This isolation leads to her tragic loneliness and eccentric behavior.

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How and why do the townspeople regard Emily in "A Rose for Emily"?

Initially she was seen as a southern lady, which is one reason her taxes were initially waved.  However, as time passes and a new generation of townspeople grow up, they regard Emily as a bit of an oddity.  She refuses to adapt and change.  They view her as a holder over from an age long gone.  This explains why she is both so confounding to them but also why she is so fascinating.

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How and why do the townspeople regard Emily in "A Rose for Emily"?

“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town,” says the narrator in the third paragraph of the story.  In addition, she was a curiosity:  someone to talk about, complain about, and perhaps at times worry about, too.  She represents a past—a traditional old south—from which the town has advanced but the effects of which still linger. One aspect of that old south is “being a lady,” which Emily was by virtue of class and gender, but she violated the codes of behavior governing that designation. This is why she is such a piece of gossip—and by the time, she gave them plenty to gossip about, especially after they find the dead Homer in her bed.

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How and why do the townspeople regard Emily in "A Rose for Emily"?

The townspeople are fascinated with Emily. Her family has been prominent in the town, and so Emily has been watched and wondered about her whole life-she has celebrity status.

Emily actually has very little to do with the town, but the town is always scrutinizing her actions when she is spotted. The town feels that she is "an idol in a niche...dear inescapable, impervious, tranquil and perverse".

When Miss Emily shocks them by dating Homer, they are divided in how they react. Some can understand because her father kept suitors away, feeling that they were not good enough for her. Others, are upset, she above all, should never date a commoner, and a Yankee.

In the end, the town excuses her crime-they take care of her until the end.

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How and why do the townspeople regard Emily in "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 surviving link with a supposedly more graceful and glorious past. In this neck of the woods, the certainties of the past are contrasted with a much more uncertain present and future. As Emily represents this past, she is treated with reverence and respect by the older townsfolk.

In practical terms, this means that Emily is spared the inconvenience of paying property taxes. This is quite a big deal, as the Grierson residence is one of the largest in town, so Emily will save quite a bit of money. However, the younger townsfolk work tirelessly to try to get her to pay her taxes, contributing to one of the greater disputes and themes of the story, in which old Southern ways clash with pushes for modernization.

More disturbingly, the general esteem in which Emily is held also means that people try to ignore the foul, putrescent stench emanating from her home. If this had been anyone else, inquiries would likely have been made immediately. But as Emily gets a pass for her numerous eccentricities, it's only after her death that the shocking source of this vile smell is finally revealed. In essence, the older townsfolk's feelings toward Emily allow her to get away with murder, quite literally.

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How is Emily treated by the town and her family in "A Rose for Emily"?

Throughout the short story, the community's complex relationship with Emily Grierson represents how Southern citizens perceive and interact with their Confederate past and future. The community of Jefferson respects Emily Grierson because she hails from a prestigious family, yet they are highly critical of her life, which they discuss with each another privately. At the beginning of the story, Faulkner reveals the enigma surrounding Emily and mentions that the women are curious about her affairs. Faulkner goes on to describe Emily as a "sort of hereditary obligation upon the town," and illustrates how the older generation of Jeffersonians remitted her taxes. However, the newer generation does not honor Colonel Sartoris's decision and attempts to collect Emily's owed money. The eighty-year-old Judge Stevens, who represents the traditional culture of the Old South, demonstrates his respect for Miss Emily by insisting that the community take it upon themselves to spread lime throughout her yard unnoticed.

Faulkner also writes that the community believes that the Grierson's "held themselves a little too high for what they really were." When Emily's father passes away, the community begins to pity Emily because she has become "humanized." The citizens then criticize her relationship with Homer Barron, who symbolizes Northern business prospects in the South. Some citizens believe that Emily should kill herself, and they willingly send a Baptist minister to visit her home in hopes of persuading her to end the relationship. However, once they believe Emily is married to Homer, they rejoice. Once again, Faulkner illustrates the complex feelings of Southern citizens as they wrestle with their past and future. The contrast between how the older generation and the new generation of citizens treat Emily is most explicitly portrayed in their attendance to Miss Emily's painting sessions. General Satoris's daughters and granddaughters regularly visit Emily's home for lessons out of charity. In contrast, Faulkner writes,

"Then the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of the town, and the painting pupils grew up and fell away and did not send their children to her with boxes of color and tedious brushes and pictures cut from the ladies' magazines" (5).

By the end of the story, the entire town shows up to Emily's funeral out of respect and curiosity. Overall, the complex feelings of the community range from reverence to disgust and reflect the numerous opinions of Southerners concerning their Confederate past and postwar future.

Emily's relationship with her family is characterized by her father's oppressive nature. Emily's father is an austere man, who believes that no one is good enough for his daughter. He continuously dismisses Emily's suitors out of arrogance and lords over his timid daughter. Emily's relationship with her father is represented in a family portrait, which depicts her father holding a horsewhip in the foreground as his back faces Emily. Unfortunately, Emily is raised under the oppressive rule of her father and lives a relatively isolated life. When Emily's father dies, she initially refuses to acknowledge his death. Her father's portrait even adorns her living room, which symbolizes his continual surveillance and authority throughout her life. Emily also has family living in Alabama, who do not communicate with her after a falling out regarding an old estate. Overall, Emily is victimized by her strict, overprotective father, who essentially ruins her opportunities to date as a young woman.

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In "A Rose for Emily," what is your impression of the people in the town? What does their relationship with Miss Emily reveal about them?

The townsfolk held ambivalent feelings about Miss Emily. Although they acknowledged her pedigree, they also harbored disdain for what they considered her lack of grace and humility. In truth, the townsfolk felt that Miss Emily had little right to display the airs she gave herself.

The townsfolk entertained bitter rumors about Miss Emily for years, until her father passed away. After the funeral, they felt that they could be more charitable towards her. After all, she was now one of them, and in her new penniless state, she could not afford to exhibit her usual arrogance.

However, the townsfolk still kept Miss Emily at arms length; they were, unfortunately, still very much enamored by their old prejudices about her. When Miss Emily began to ride about with Homer Barron (the Yankee foreman), they gossiped about her intentions.

Although the townsfolk pretended horror at Miss Emily's choice of beau, they were secretly fascinated by her unconventional behavior. Yet, they only dared voice their disapproval of Miss Emily in private. They grumbled about taking the principle of noblesse oblige too far but refused to confront her about it.

Basically, the townsfolk believed themselves morally superior to Miss Emily. They unashamedly sat in judgment of her, yet were unable to recognize their own meanness of spirit. In all, their attitudes towards Miss Emily reveal their hypocrisy and lack of grace.

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In "A Rose for Emily," what is your impression of the people in the town? What does their relationship with Miss Emily reveal about them?

The people in the town represent to themselves the idea of a more modern town.  And they function as a contrast to Miss Emily representing the old ways and the old town.

My impression of the town's people is that they are nosey and hold themselves somewhat superior to Miss Emily while at the same time are in awe of her.  You can see the superior attitude as represented by the new townsmen trying to collect tax from her. It is clear that they feel as if they represent a type of organisation and government that has become less reliant on relationships and more built on some semblance of equality - at least as far as paying taxes go.

However, there is still an amount of awe in the sort of respect the town's people have for Miss Emily and they way in which they treat her.  They claim her as a part of them referring to her much in the way you would of an old aunt who lingers on.  She is a living legend in the town.  

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In "A Rose for Emily, how would you characterize the attitudes of the townspeople toward Emily?

The attitude the townspeople have towards Emily is mixed and shifts over time.

As you see in the opening lines, the town reacted to her death with "respectful affection" but for a monument that fell. So, start there: respect, affection, but also a sense of a period ending. That means they feel like they've moved past her. The sense of having changed time periods is also visible in the tax notice. Her family used to be so important to the town that they excused her taxes. Now, she's asked to pay again.

Soon after, we're told they are simply curious. Think of how Miss Emily acted after other people died, and how long it has been since anyone else had been in the family house, and you'll see why they might be curious. Given how strangely she asked, you could also say they see her as a curiosity, almost an oddity.

At other points, like when she buys poison, you can see her overwhelm the shop keeper with her presence.

Finally, think of how they feel at the end, when they find the body: repulsed.

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In "A Rose for Emily," what does Miss Emily's relationship with the people in the town reveal about them?

In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the local townspeople are fascinated by Emily and the events of her household. There are several things you can consider when analyzing the town's relationship with Emily. First, evaluate the time and locale of Emily's life and home. Second, consider the use of passive voice and the detached, third-person references in regard to the events of Emily's life after she has died.

When evaluating the time period and locale of Emily's home, consider that there are several indications in the short story that Faulkner set this tale in the American South. There are two primary references to the Confederacy in the short story. The first reference is early in the story and touches on the age of Miss Emily's home.

And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.

The second reference comes up later in the story but still directly in relation to Emily's death.

And the very old men—some in their brushed Confederate uniforms—on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.

When analyzing these details, consider that Faulkner implies that there are some significant cultural ties between Miss Emily and the history of the town. Miss Emily is essentially grandfathered into not owing taxes for her property and home after her father dies. This decision was made by the mayor at the time, Colonel Sartoris. Faulkner intentionally notes that Sartoris "fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron." This clearly ties Sartoris and Miss Emily to the old American South and its ways of life.

However, the next generation of townspeople do attempt to claim taxes from Miss Emily. They are not successful. This fact ties into the next element for you to consider—how the townspeople act passive-aggressively toward Miss Emily rather than confronting her directly.

Overall, the story of Miss Emily is an analogy for the American South. As she withers and decays and becomes less relevant, people whisper and gossip about her. However, because they consider her to be a relic of the past, they do not fully engage with her. While some might say that the newer generation is trying to simply be respectful, a reader could also analyze the story to show that each subsequent generation is just slightly more aware of how its elders have affected the world.

The following examples indicate that the town might be less ready to accept its historical role in slavery and oppression:

  • She owes taxes, but the newer townspeople don't force her to pay.
  • Many people smell a very foul odor outside Miss Emily's house, but they don't pry outside of visiting the grounds and spreading some lime.
  • When Homer Barron enters the house and never leaves, they ignore it.

Ultimately, Homer Barron is found dead in Emily's home after she has passed away of natural causes. The story implies Miss Emily poisoned him with arsenic and then lay down beside him in bed. After he died, she returned to her usual reclusive life.

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In "A Rose for Emily," what does Miss Emily's relationship with the people in the town reveal about them?

The people in town seem to be quite taken with Miss Emily.  They are constantly following her "story" almost in an obsessive way.  The ladies in town are so distraught by her relationship with Homer.  It's a disgrace to the town to have one of "their own" southerners dating a Yankee.  The older men in the town feel the same way and think it's an outrage. The younger genereation, however, sees it a little differently.  They are more flexible with society's rules.  Because of this mixture of feelings in town, it seems as if Emily is their entertainment over the years.  They watch to see what she does next.  She taught the painting for a while, but that was about it. She never comes out, and they wonder about what she's doing and what is in that house.  All the way up to the end, the town wants to see inside that house of hers.  They do get what they want in the end, though.  They find the skeleton in her bed.  Since the town acted like a nosy, little, old lady, it got what it deserved in the end.  The shock of their lives.

The fact that she had no relationship with anyone in town shows that they are all not as "proper" as one would think.  The act aloof and of a higher class, yet they do petty things like gossip and spread rumors.

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In "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, what is the attitude of the townspeople towards Emily? Why?

Overall, the townspeople, especially those with power, are exceptionally deferential to Miss Emily. As the narrator states:

Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town

The special treatment is mentioned early on in the story: in 1894, Colonel Sartoris, the town mayor, decides Miss Emily shall be relieved of taxes "into perpetuity." This is a response to his knowledge that she is poor. Not only does he grant her absolution from taxes, he also protects her ego. He comes up with a story that the tax relief is the repayment of a loan she once made to the town so that it doesn't look as if she is being granted charity.

As the story continues, we learn of other instances of deference to Miss Emily. For instance, a decade after Colonel Sartoris's death, when the Board of Alderman visit her about back taxes, she "vanquishes" them with her repeated and assured insistence: "I have no taxes in Jefferson."

We find out, too, that earlier, when the stink of decomposing flesh from her house grew so powerful that people complained, deference again won the day. The Board of Alderman wanted to investigate but when a younger man demanded a confrontation:

"Dammit, sir," Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"

Instead, the men sneak around her property at night flinging lime in the hopes it will hasten the decomposition of whatever it is that has died.

The town is so deferential to her because she is their revered symbol of the Old South, a dream they wish to hold on to. If they have nothing else, they can venerate this "lady" as they like imagine every lady was venerated before the Civil War. This allows Miss Emily to lives as she pleases, which includes getting away with murder.

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In "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, what is the attitude of the townspeople towards Emily? Why?

While there is, indeed, ambiguity in exactly what the multiple narrators' points of view are toward Emily, there does seem to be a reverence on the part of these narrators for the culture of the Old South.  For instance, when Emily is seen driving around town with Homer Barron it is as though one of the cultural orders of the town is desecrated.  In Part IV, the narrators mention that they say "Poor Emily," and

some of the ladies begain to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people.

And, in order to reestablish the prestige attached to Emily, the ladies have the minister call upon her; in addition, they write to Emily's cousins in Alabama.  The narrators comment,

We were glad because the two female cousins were even more Grierson that Miss Emily had ever been.

Thus, there seems to be a propensity on the part of the narrators to not only revere the traditional cuture of the South, but also to desire it preservation.  This condition is notable in other Southern novels, such as Erskine Caldwell's "Tobacco Road," in which Luster Sexton refuses to leave his dirt farm and go to the city where he can easily find employment in the factories.  Entrenched in the feudal mind of the Old South, Sexton would rather starve than relinquish the traditional life he has known.  The narrators of "A Rose for Emily" appear to be of similar thinking.

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In "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, what is the attitude of the townspeople towards Emily? Why?

The townspeople are somewhat ambivalent about Miss Emily, don't you think? She is all that is left of the "aristocracy" of the town, and that aristocracy was probably respected but feared and disliked in her father's day. As that "class" eroded in the South, people probably watched its decline with equal parts sympathy and satisfaction. I think the townspeople cared about Miss Emily, but were not all that sorry to see her decline. Another aspect of the townspeople's attitude was probably great curiosity about how the "other half" lived. The story makes several references to how the townspeople wanted to see the inside of the house, and, of course, Miss Emily was a source of almost constant gossip and speculation.

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How were Emily's neighbors treating her in "A Rose for Emily"?

In "A Rose For Emily," Emily's neighbors treat her in a very respectful way. This is shown clearly when she is summoned to a meeting of the Board of Aldermen. When Emily arrives, for example, everyone in the town stands up, as a symbol of their respect for her. Moreover, the neighbors do not question her liability for paying tax; it is only the more "modern" people who do. This is a clear sign that Emily's status (and her word) are respected.

In addition, the neighbors give Emily a special status, as though she is in a league of her own. We see this in the opening lines of the story when the narrator describes her funeral. There is a certain curiosity around Emily, as shown by the women who attended her funeral just so they could see her house. Furthermore, when Emily is seen buying arsenic, she becomes the focal point for local gossip, but nobody, except the minister, dares to question her motivations. She is clearly exempt from the rules of ordinary people.

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How were Emily's neighbors treating her in "A Rose for Emily"?

The neighbourhood, which interestingly in this story acts as a kind of communal narrator, treats Miss Emily with a range of different responses in this masterful Southern Gothic classic by Faulkner. She is clearly the topic of much gossip and discussion, but also within that discussion there is a certain amount of respect. Note how the story begins by describing the "respectful affection" that is normally shown for a "fallen monument" that the neighbours express at Miss Emily's death. However, the narrator goes on to tell us how she had been treated and viewed in her lifetime:

Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town...

We can almost see Miss Emily therefore as some kind of town "charge" who has been entrusted into the care of the town, ever since Colonel Sartoris remitted her taxes. Going back into the past, however, we see that pity is another emotion that the neighbours expressed towards Miss Emily, especially concerning her tyrannical father, horsewhip in hand, who denies her the happiness of marriage and leaves her in penury. However, clearly she is an oddity as well, as shown by her initial refusal to accept the fact of her father's death.

Thus the neighbours show a range of emotions towards Miss Emily. It is clear she is an institution of the town, and as such, much talked about and gossiped over.

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