Jacob Young Dr. Penne Wilson College Writing I 04 February, 2013 A Rose for Emily In reading William Faulkner’s classic, “A Rose for Emily”, the predominate theme is a resistance to change expressed by the main protagonist Emily Grierson. Faulkner establishes the theme by setting the story in a Southern home of the antebellum architecture in the town of Jefferson which represents traditional Southern culture in the later years of the 18th century. Faulkner throws out bits of details in an almost seemingly random and perhaps subtle way which the reader must decipher and put the events of the story into chronological order. The story revolves around an unknown citizen of Jefferson who tells the story of Miss Emily Grierson and the town of Jefferson, the relationship that the two share, and their different perceptions of each other. The town seems to think very highly of Emily but Emily doesn’t think highly of the town and shows it in resisting the change she sees happening in Jefferson. Faulkner uses four clear symbols that emphasize the theme in the story. He describes the house in vivid detail and its relationship to the town and the current look of it. Specifically, the upstairs bedroom in the house defines the true character of Emily. The institution of marriage, a great symbol of tradition is expressed in the character of Emily and resisted by the character of Homer. Finally, Emily’s actions are the least subtle and more rudimentary of supportive events that Faulkner uses to express the theme. It is her actions that we will discuss first. When the town received modern mail service “Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would not listen to them.” She is out of touch with reality and shows that she doesn’t change with the times and “scar” her monument to tradition with metallic numbers to mark the home’s address. Emily shows resentment to the town when they come to collect taxes even though her father made an unofficial agreement with Colonel Sartoris, a former mayor, that the Grierson family never has to pay taxes from the time of her father’s death until perpetuity. “She did not ask them to sit…her voice was dry and cold. I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me.” This validates her steadfast adherence to tradition. Because a new generation of town officials are in office doesn’t mean that promises and agreements can be broken. “See Colonel Sartoris. (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years)” also implies that for Emily, time is relative and her reclusive behavior has kept her out of touch with reality and in her mind justifies why she doesn’t have to pay taxes. We can examine another supportive symbol, Emily’s house that serves as the basis of the setting.
It represents the once wealthy and upscale neighborhoods of traditional Southern aristocracy and the last reminisce of the awesomeness of a lost era shielding Emily from the world and creating her vacuum in which she dominates. It looks out of place from the changing neighborhood noted by Faulkner’s own words that “garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood.” The world around the home changes as “the town had just let the contracts for paving sidewalks, and in the summer after her father’s death they began to work. The construction company came with riggers and mules and machinery”, “Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores.” It seems out of place now, but it is a powerful message by Emily of her conviction to resist change and that time is relative against a changing world around her and her home. The room upstairs in her home that has been sealed for 40 years is an extreme attempt to prevent