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Social Classes and Discrimination in “A Rose for Emily”


A Rose for Emily by William Faulker is among the best 20th-century stories in American literature. It is his first published work in a magazine due to its influence on society. The author presents his story in a mid-20th century community in South America. The story occurs in a small town known as Jefferson, where Emily, the main character, lives with an overbearing father whose actions impact most of the storyline. Throughout the story, the author depicts the community’s lifestyle during the pre-civil war era, including their rich culture and traditions, gender roles, social inequalities, and human attitudes towards traditional change and progress. One of the most distinct themes the author presents in this book is social status and discrimination. The author conveys the theme through various interactions among community members and the book’s main character. This essay demonstrates Emily’s social class and biases through Emily’s bravery, and arrogant and dignified attitudes towards community members from lower social classes.

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During the mid-20th century, members of high society had the influence and power of disregarding and controlling authority regardless of gender. When women were considered inferior to men, it was hard for women to stand up against authority or make decisions for their families. However, Emily was different since she had wealth and power that gave her the courage to stand against men and the communities authority. She could stand up for injustices and unethical acts in society without objection from the community members.

Due to her superiority, Emily disregarded the law and looked down upon government officials who thought they could harass her because of her gender. When community members complained about the smell coming from her house, the town’s mayor was unwilling to investigate the source of the stench because of Emily’s arrogance towards authority. “She vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before the smell” (Kennedy 31). Apart from Emily’s arrogance, society’s culture could not allow investigations on a noble lady regarding foul odor since the wealthy are usually clean. It would be unwise to suggest otherwise.

People from different social classes could not mingle or create close relationships. Romantic relationships were also hopeless between the Romantic high class and lower classes “of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer” (Kennedy 33).

However, when the father dies, and Emily gets fed up with spinsterhood, she starts a romantic relationship with Mr. Homer from the lowest social class. The community considers Emily a disgrace to the upper class for having romantic feelings for a lower-class man, “but there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige” (Kennedy and Dana 33). It is more intriguing that the dissatisfied people and negative gossipers of Emily’s relationship hail from the middle and low class. Instead of esteeming Emily for accepting Mr. Homer into her life, the ladies called her “poor Emily,” “She disgraces the dignity and nobility” (Kennedy and Dana 34). Despite the gossip and repulsive rumors, employing social superiority gives her the courage and arrogance to continue with her relationship and ignore the societal norm of class.


Emily’s attitude and arrogance enabled her to survive and defeat all social types in her life despite the social hierarchies. She defies government and local authority despite being on the wrong side of the law. She uses her social status to show arrogance and pride, which demeans community members and the town’s mayor, making her an inapproachable figure in society. However, when people think she will never associate with lower society, she has romantic relations with a laborer from the lowest social class. Her aristocratic air disregards poor people’s gossip and embraces the life she wants till her death. Throughout the book, Emily represents the impact of wealth and belonging to the high class through her actions and attitudes.

Work Cited

Kennedy, X. J. Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Compact Edition ed., Pearson, 2020.

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StudyCorgi. (2023, January 12). Social Classes and Discrimination in “A Rose for Emily”. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2023, January 12). Social Classes and Discrimination in “A Rose for Emily”.

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