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“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner Review

A Rose for Emily is considered to be a short story written by William Faulkner, an American writer. Miss Emily, the central figure of the story, is described as an isolated character living in the atmosphere of totalitarian upbringing. It should be noted that the author creates sophisticated characters perceived by the readers from different directions. The narrator describes Miss Emily as the character living in the world of unrevealed thoughts and feelings. Nevertheless, it is necessary to stress the idea, that Miss Emily’s actions underline her mind slipping from reality.

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The analysis of Miss Emily’s character is based on central adjectives characterizing her image in the story, such as ‘dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.’ (Faulkner, 80). Contextual and psychological analysis of the character cannot be presented separately through the complexity of Miss Emily’s image. Her behavior is illustrated as idiosyncratic and erratic; she is a typical example of a strange character differing from ordinary mass living in accordance with social standards. Miss Emily is not presented by the author as diagnosed with mental disorders or evaluated by people as a person from another galaxy. It is necessary to underline the fact that Miss Emily is not identified as a crazy woman; nevertheless, her feelings and thoughts are presented through her desire to live far from reality. The combination of the past and present mixed by the narrator transfers the reader to the unreal world where Miss Emily lives in.

Miss Emily lives in depression and despair. The present takes away her close people, shaping another perception of reality. It is necessary to stress the idea that the author depicts his character as the person who strives to save everything she has had in the past. She refuses to accept the death of her father and Colonel Sartoris. One should underline the fact that the story is the fight between the past and the present disclosed through the image of Miss Emily. Not that the character lives in the atmosphere of unrevealed dreams, but she tries to leave reality saving the most valuable moments from the past.

The atmosphere of unreality sets the main tone of the story. Real world is presented in the form of social pressure which Miss Emily tries to resist. The process of her father’s burial is perceived by the character as the step of social oppressiveness, followed by Miss Emily’s triumph over values of the present. The poison bought by the character appeared to be a symbolic step made against social rules and law, being totally ignored by the woman.

Miss Emily’s analysis as the character can be brightly demonstrated through the contrastive representation of Homer Barron and Emily. It is necessary to underline the fact that Emily is presented as an aristocrat, while Homer appeared to be an ordinary laborer, but who leads an active way of life and becomes a part of modern society. In contrary to this character, Emily is presented as a monument of the presence reflecting the elements of the past. It should be stressed that Emily becomes the center of town gossips; she tries to make Homer the part of her existence, drawing a line between him and society.

The atmosphere of unreality depicted by Emily is based on two various positions of modernity: 1) the past is viewed by the present as a diminishing road, leading to nowhere; 2) the modern world of social traditions views the past as the meadow separated from reality by decades. It should be noted that Emily supported the second position, though she never accepted the point that the past is separated from the present. The symbol of a timeless meadow is presented through Emily’s small room, where she and Homer spent the time until his death. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this time the death could not separate her and Homer, as it was with her father.

‘What was left on him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay.’ (Faulkner, 91)

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The author managed to illustrate the atmosphere of horror showing Homer surrounded by usual everyday objects observed in Emily’s room.

So, the author managed to illustrate the lady who was brought up in the atmosphere of Old South traditions; Emily never lived in accordance with social and legal regulations refusing norms and standards of the past. She had a right to live by the past stimulating society to make her a monument for gossips. The murder committed by Miss Emily appeared to be a kind of gesture to contradict social order regulations and fight social pressure. (Claridge, 47)

The ending of the story appeared to be shocking for the readers. The lady, who lived in her own world of the past, decides to resist the society dissolving oppressive and misunderstanding values for Emily. This position of the main character stimulated the development of ‘mental health’ within her mind, prohibiting her to live a happy life in harmony with society.


Claridge, Henry. William Faulkner: Critical Assessment. Taylor and Francis, 2000.

Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. Merrill, 1970.

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