A Rose for Emily: William Faulkner

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The story "A Rose for Emily", written by William Faulkner, begins near the end of the story and then continues to work it's way back and forth until the ending is revealed. The story is divided into five different sections which separates the plot into these different time frames. Emily Grierson's death opens the story, as a fellow towns person recalls her life's story at her funeral. Her family's name held an upstanding reputation and due to her father's generosity to the town, Colonel Sartoris, an old mayor, waived her taxes. However, once a new mayor was in office, they repeatedly tried to get Miss Emily to pay up. She refused. Miss Emily's house in the story is a relic from the old days when the town was in it's prime.

The next section of the story is many years earlier, when Emily was a young lady and her father had just passed away. The town's people could all smell this horrendous scent coming from her house and upon inquiring about it, they discovered her dead father. Miss Emily insisted though that no one was dead, and continued this thinking for three days. She finally broke down and her father was buried. Emily's father always said that no one was good for his daughter although many suitors came to call upon her. She remains single for many years.

Section III takes places the summer after her father's death and reveals a new comer to the town in the character of Homer Baron, a construction worker who has caught Miss Emily's fancy. The affair continues as her and Homer take many rides around town in his buggy for all the townspeople to see. But one day, Miss Emily goes to the store to purchase arsenic, which is a very lethal poisoning, and refuses to give the store clerk her reason for needing it. So the package arrives reading "for rats".

In the fourth section, the townspeople who are sick of watching this affair unfold before them despite Miss Emily's and Homer's visits to church, have insisted that the minister go and visit her. This visit is not deemed a success. The townspeople then conclude to write to her two aunts in Alabama since it appears that Miss Emily and Homer are to wed after she orders a silver platter with their initials and he departs town in order to prepare for her move to North Carolina. However, shortly after her family leaves, Homer enters Emily's house and is never seen again. So Miss Emily grows old and gray-headed alone, teaching occasional lessons, but soon even this too halts to a stop. People can occasionally spot her standing in a window but not much is heard from her for years until her death.

Miss Emily dies at the age of seventy-four, with only the Old Negro man as a friend, but even he leaves and is never heard from again after her death. Section V is the scene of Miss Emily's funeral, taking place in her front parlor. Several of the townspeople in attendance at the funeral take a trip upstairs to a room that had not been visited in over forty years. Upon breaking the door down, they find Homer Barron's skeleton laying on the bed, the rest of the room frozen in time, and next to the body an indentation in the pillow with a "long strand of iron-gray hair".



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One the most important themes in "A Rose For Emily" is death. Death in any story usually symbolizes the ending of something whether it be literal or figurative. In this story it symbolizes the Old South. In the beginning of the story it is implied that the old mayor has died and a new one has come in because Miss Emily is being forced to pay taxes. She is usually excused from them but the old mayor passed so things have changed.Another death is the death of Miss Emily. This symbolizes the end of the Old South.

Important Characters
Emily Grierson- An outright strange and bizarre character to any normal reader,
she limits the town to her life by remaining in her house which backs up her eccentric behavior.
It is possible she thinks highly of herself and above the rest of the town when she avoids taxes,
and does not state a reason for the poison she purchases (Sparknotes Editors). Also, she refuses to have numbers attached to her house when the federal mail is created (Faulkner). This disregard for the law takes its turn when she uses the poison to kill Homer. The townspeople thinks she will simply kill herself due to her instabilities, but she ends of taking Homer's life and sleeping with his body. This final scene in the story shows that Emily truly wants full control of everything, including love (Sparknotes Editors).
Picture courtesy of Today In Literature
Picture courtesy of Today In Literature

Homer Barron- A man from the north who comes to town to work as a foreman. He is charmful and

appealing to the people of the town, unlike Emily. He begins to take Emily around on Sundays for rides

in a buggy. He becomes the love in Emily's life as she purchases him things such as new silver items.

However, Homer does not attempt to marry Emily, which brings her speculation. He plays with younger

men at the Elk's club which could suggest he is homosexual or just simply a single man. Obviously, this

angers Emily who eventually kills him so that he will always be with her (Sparknotes Editors).

Picture courtesy of Tontine 255 Blog
Picture courtesy of Tontine 255 Blog

Important Symbols

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One of the most important symbols in "A Rose for Emily" is the house of Miss Emily. Usually an antique, family house is an archetype in literature to show wealth or love. However, in this case, the house represents not only wealth, but Miss Emily's isolation from the world and her surrounding community as well. All she desired for was a house to love and be loved in, but after something went wrong with Homer Barron, the house ultimately became Miss Emily's only place to feel comfortable. She invited no one into the house, which could describe the actual decaying to the outside of the residence. Also, the arsenic bought by Miss Emily is another symbol, and perhaps the stories' most sketchy symbol. I infer that Miss Emily, having bought the poison, uses it to kill Homer Barron. Barron told Emily that "I am not a man worth marrying," and that he is a homosexual. This could have influenced Emily to think of Homer Barron as a "rat," hence the note on the poison "for rats only."


"Emily." Today In Literature. Web. 13 Mar 2011.

"Homer Barron." Tontine 255 Blog. Web. 11 Mar 2011. <http://tontine255.wordpress.com/cast-of- characters/homer-barron/>.

Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily." Literature for Composition. 9th ed. Sylvan Barnett, William Burto,

and William E. Cain. Longman: New York. 237-244. Print.

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on A Rose for Emily.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 24 Feb. 2011.