Faulkner’s inspiration for “A Rose for Emily” traces back to his family roots and birth place of Oxford, Mississippi, an era thirty two years after the Civil War (Fargnoli and Golay 82). As a child, having “absorbed a living history” of stories from war veterans of the Civil War and of living through the destruction it caused, Faulkner felt that the past still lives on to the present (Fargonoli and Golay 82). Faulkner’s narrative style at different intervals of the story, “that often includes the effects of the past and of historical reminiscences” provides readers clues to character’s conviction and development to the story (Fargnoli and Golay 86). The important role of history impacted Faulkner’s perspectives; he uses historical ties to the Old South, the culture of slavery, and the Civil War to create a story of a woman’s attachment to tradition and defiance of new changes put forward in the town of Jefferson. Firstly, there is a deep history and myth of the Old South, a vernacular region in the American South. The term Old South or “The Southerner” was coined to describe a care free way of life and culture in the American South that left a historical mark when slavery existed with ties to colonial days (Eaton 1). Southern Aristocracy arose from hard-working middle classes that appropriated acres of land “tilled by slaves” in the 18th century. (Eaton 54). Southern society believed in a free market and capitalism that government should be separate from the state resulting in minimal tax payments (Eaton 418). The European influence and architecture of houses and churches in the eighteenth century were designed to preserve the history of Gothic architecture and later Georgian style that “expressed the wealth and stately elegance of the aristocracy” (Eaton 69). The portrayal of elegance and the myths of the Old South may have inspired Faulkner to romanticize the story.
Emily’s father instilled the values and traditions of Southern Aristocracy giving Emily a sense of entitlement in preserving Southern legacy. For example, Emily cannot accept changes after her father’s death. To support this idea, Emily refuses to pay taxes believing that Colonel Sartoris relieved her of this duty owing much to her father’s deed for the community. Another example of holding to the past is the lavish house that Emily once lived in “that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies” in an affluent area (Faulkner 44). For this reason, she did not make improvements to modernize it. Emily’s inability to let go of the past was a way to preserve and continue the legacy her father may have built in the town.
Secondly, another aspect of history is the culture of slavery that existed in the Old South. The history of slavery was prominent when the cotton industry was the economic driver and “the Negro slave” was an alternative source of inexpensive labor brought over from Africa when African trade slave was permitted in 1798 (Eaton 230). Furthermore, there is a myth that Southerners were rich landowners, with slaves working in the hot field in surreal surroundings (Eaton 388).To the contrary, slave labors also worked in the plantations, as farmers and domestic house-workers, and according to an observer, house servants “developed a real affection for their masters, which was warmly reciprocated” (Eaton 247) . Thomas Jefferson, a historical figure and slave owner himself viewed slavery was a “necessary evil” that “would eventually die a natural death” (Dudley 17). This would foreshadow his prediction in the abolishment of slave trade. Slavery and racism was still much part of Southern society after the turn of the century. Faulkner emphasized the basis of servant-master relationship between Emily and her black servant Tobe. To illustrate, Emily heavily relies on Tobe to do all the household chores and he