“A to her funeral: the men went

April 15, 2019 Health

“A Rose for Emily” is a short story written by William Faulkner in 1930. The story opens with a first person narrated account of Emily Grierson, who has lived a long life and who has been known throughout her town. The funeral of this elderly Southern woman is now the obligation of the townspeople. It tells of Emily’s mental breakdown as time goes on and how it was unknown to everyone else. During the 1930’s, mental illness was treated with a tolerable attitude toward those who were socially considered high class, such as Emily. “When Ms. Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men went through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one had seen save an old man-servant-had seen in the last ten years” (Faulkner 299). In the story, she was tax exempt by a Colonel Sartoris after the death of her father in 1894. There was no written record of this at the time and the new elected officials try to send her a notification that her taxes were due. The first sign we see of her mental illness comes when the city authorities arrive to collect her taxes. She repeatedly states that they need to see Colonel Sartoris, who at the time had been dead for nearly a decade. For Emily, the passage of time doesn’t seem to matter as she has spent most of her life locked away in her home anyway.
Part II takes place two years after Emily’s father died, and just a short time after she was abandoned by her soon to be husband. At this point, we see further deterioration of Emily’s mental health as she is rarely seen. As time goes on, a horrible stench begins to come from Emily’s home. Many townsfolk complain to the current judge, Judge Stevens. But, he refuses to accuse Emily of smelling bad. Eventually, the Judge has someone sprinkle lime around her house to prevent the odor. Emily had pretended everything was normal, as if her father had never died. Within a couple of weeks though, the odor subsides, and the townspeople begin to pity the increasingly reclusive Emily. They remember how her great aunt had succumbed to insanity and fear the same for her. The townspeople have always believed that the Griersons thought too highly of themselves, with Emily’s father driving off the many suitors of men deemed not good enough to marry his daughter. With no offer of marriage in sight, Emily is still single by the time she turns thirty. The day after Mr. Grierson’s death, the women of the town call on Emily to offer their condolences. Meeting them at the door, Emily states that her father is not dead at all, a charade that she keeps up for three days. Finally she turns her father’s body over for burial.
In part III, the narrator describes a long illness that Emily suffers after this incident. The summer after her father’s death, the town contracts workers to pave the sidewalks. A construction company, under the direction of Northerner Homer Barron, is awarded the job. Homer soon becomes a popular figure in town and is seen taking Emily on buggy rides on Sunday afternoons. This scandalizes the town and increases the condescension and pity they have for Emily. They feel that she has forgotten her family pride and has become involved with a man beneath her status. As the affair continues, Emily’s reputation is further compromised. Because of this, she goes to the drug store to purchase arsenic, a powerful poison. She is required by law to reveal how she will use the arsenic. She offers no explanation, and the package arrives at her house labeled “for rats.”
In part IV, the townspeople began fearing that Emily will commit suicide due to the fact that it’s discovered Homer is a homosexual and is often seen with younger men. Her potential marriage to Homer now seems increasingly unlikely, despite their continued Sunday ritual. The more outraged women of the town insist that the Baptist minister must talk with Emily. After his visit, he never speaks of what happened and swears that he’ll never go back. So, the minister’s wife writes to Emily’s two cousins in Alabama, who arrive for an extended stay. Because Emily orders a silver toilet set monogrammed with Homer’s initials, talk of the couple’s marriage resumes. Homer, absent from town, is believed to be preparing for Emily’s move to the North or avoiding Emily’s intrusive relatives. After the cousins’ depart, Homer enters the Grierson home one evening and then is never seen again. Holed up in the house, Emily grows plump and gray. Despite the occasional lesson she gives in china painting, her door remains closed to outsiders. In what becomes an annual ritual, Emily refuses to acknowledge the tax bill. She eventually closes up the top floor of the house. Except for the occasional glimpse of her in the window, nothing is heard from her until her death at age seventy-four. Only the servant is seen going in and out of the house.
In the final section, the narrator describes what has happened after Emily dies. Emily’s body is laid out in the parlor, and the women, town elders, and two cousins attend the service. After some time has passed, the door to a sealed upstairs room that had not been opened in forty years is broken down by the townspeople. The room is frozen in time, with the items for an upcoming wedding and a man’s suit laid out. Homer Barron’s body is stretched on the bed as well, in an advanced state of decay. The onlookers then notice the indentation of a head in the pillow beside Homer’s body and a long strand of Emily’s gray hair on the pillow.


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