“A Rose for Emily”, the Struggling of the South after the Civil War

William_Faulkner_1949In “A Rose for Emily”, William Faulkner shows many themes that go from the tragedy that results from our adherence to social roles to the typical behavior of people from a small town; that is, the gossips and rumors that happens there. But, undoubtedly, the main theme of this work is the contrast between the North and the South of the United States and how some people became profoundly affected by the changes that were taking place after the end of the Civil War and were not willing to accept Northern influence in their territory…

From the very beginning, we realize that the author is presenting an archaic character when describing Emily Rose. Emily refuses to accept the pass of time and changes; she is more related and close to a pre-war southerner person than to a post-war one. To the outside world, it might have appeared that Miss Emily Grierson grew up in the lap of luxury. For a long time, she was the last descendant of a very important family from the South: “Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town”. It seems she is a kind of institution for the local people.

In the next sentence: “But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons […]” that contrast between North and South and the realization that Emily is an “archaic character” is pretty well shown. It clearly exemplifies that struggling of the South, illustrated by these “august names”; the North taking advantage of that in means of cotton business[1]; and it shows also how Emily is anchored in the past when comparing her to the house which was the exception of that neighborhood.

Northern influence in Jefferson, the city where the action happens, became clear when Homer Barron, a Yankee laborer, arrives. When Emily began to see that man in public, people from the town said: “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.” But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige”. That rumors were caused for various reasons, one of them was that Homer Barron was a Northerner; but there were other reasons that were incompatible with the idea of a man in the South society: “Homer himself had remarked–he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks’ Club–that he was not a marrying man.” We may confirm not just the idea of Emily being very traditional but also the social status she has in society; just as a pre 1.863 Southern woman: “She carried her head high enough–even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; […]”

A_Rose_for_Emily_by_DragonSparkAt the end of the story, Emily, in a reflection of what is happening in the South after the Civil War, tries to stop time so everything remains as always. She kills Homer Barron, and we discover that she has being sleeping with his dead body for a long period of time. It seems she was trying to keep the North in conjunction with the South but submitted to it: “The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.”


[1] The Northern States were the main centers of manufacturing, comercing and finance, as stated in Outline of US History edited by “Bureau of International Information Programs U.S. Department of State”.

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Publicado el 15 febrero, 2014 en Literatura y etiquetado en , , , . Guarda el enlace permanente. 1 comentario.

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