“A Rose for Emily” Faulkner left behind a large body of work that told the story of the American South, from the years following the Civil War to the Depression of 1929. Most of his stories and novels were set in the fictional county of Mississippi called Yoknapatawpha County, of which the town of Jefferson was the county seat. Themes of tradition and change. The Civil War and its generation strongly defined the South that Faulkner is describing, are dying out, along with their traditions. Description of class and racial divisions in the South. “A Rose for Emily” is the story of an eccentric spinster, Emily Grierson. Narrator details the strange circumstances of Emily’s life and her odd relationships with her father, her lover, and the town of Jefferson, and the horrible secret she hides. “A Rose for Emily” takes place in Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha. Told from the point of view of a narrator who is a longtime member of Jefferson, the town in which the story takes place. The unnamed narrator refers to himself in collective pronouns throughout the story. Description of the funeral of Miss Emily Grierson. The narrator is perceived as being the voice of the average citizen of the town of Jefferson. “A Rose for Emily” begins with the death of Miss Emily Grierson. The whole town attended Miss Emily’s funeral—the men, out of respect for a “fallen monument,” and the women “out of curiosity to see the inside of her house.” House: “an eyesore among eyesores.” Once been considered one of the nicest houses situated on one of the most select streets in the town. Over the years the house had grown into disrepair. In 1894, the then mayor Colonel Sartoris remitted Miss Emily’s taxes “in perpetuity”. New mayor says she must pay taxes. When she refuses, city council sent to her house. Miss Emily described as “a small, fat woman in black”. She tells them “See Colonel Sartoris,” even though the Colonel had been dead almost ten years. Implication? Miss Emily was one of the more “aristocratic” members of the town; she lived on what was once the town’s most “select” streets among other “august” families. Colonel Sartoris: “no Negro woman should appear on the street without an apron.…” Fact that Sartoris is referred to as “Colonel” and Emily as “Miss Emily” is indication of the importance of status and respect the town affords its (white) members. Describing the process of change taking place in his South. Miss Emily, as representative of the “Old South”, replaced by members of the “New South.” Decaying figure that is clinging to the past in a delusional way. Her house, which “had once been white,” is the only house left on the block and had become “an eyesore among eyesores”. Miss Emily is under that illusion that Colonel Sartoris is still alive. Her physical attributes echo this sense of decay and decrepitude. When the city council enters Miss Emily’s house, they are greeted by “a small fat women in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.” Miss Emily sends the deputation away, just as she had sent a similar party away thirty years earlier when neighbors had begun to complain to the town about a “smell” that had risen from Miss Emily’s property. The smell was noticed two years after Miss Emily’s father’s death, and a short time after Miss Emily’s “sweetheart went away.” Instead of confronting Miss Emily directly, four men sneak onto Miss Emily's property after midnight to spread lime around her house and in her cellar. After a couple of weeks, the smell went away, and the town went along with its business as usual. Townspeople had begun to feel sorry for Miss Emily, as they recalled how Miss Emily’s great-aunt, old lady Wyatt, had gone crazy. Although a good looking, slender woman, Miss Emily was never married. The town believed that her family felt themselves superior to the rest of the town. When she turned thirty without being married, the townspeople realized that Miss Emily wasn’t simply turning suitors away, as they had thought, but that she was most likely not receiving any viable offers of marriage at all. When Miss Emily’s father died, all he had left his daughter was the house, effectively leaving her a pauper. The town was “glad” and could at last pity Miss Emily. When townspeople came to call on Miss Emily, “she met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face.” Miss Emily went on to explain to her callers that her father was not dead. It took three full days before the doctors could persuade Miss Emily to let them dispose of her father’s body properly. Narrator describes Miss Emily as mentally disturbed. After her father’s death, Miss Emily disappeared from public site for a long time, and when she reemerged, Jefferson had just started paving its sidewalks. Progress. Homer Barron, a “Yankee,” Northerner, is a foreman for one of the crews working on the contract, and soon he would be seen by the town escorting Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons. Homer, being a Northerner, is not considered a proper match for a Southern woman such as Miss Emily. About a year after the two started appearing in public, Miss Emily ordered arsenic from the local druggist. Asked by the druggist what the poison is for, Miss Emily refuses to tell. The society of Jefferson is segregated by race, extremely class conscious, and extremely conscious of societal rank and status. When Miss Emily is seen in public with Homer Barron, the townspeople are abhorred on two accounts: first, that Barron is a “Yankee,” and second, that he is a “day laborer,” even if he is a foreman. He has remarked that he is not a marrying man. A “real lady” should never forget her social duty by cavorting with such a person. A true Southern lady would only consider a Southern white man of similar social standing. Nevertheless, Miss Emily spends Sundays with Barron, ignoring the whisperings of her fellow Jeffersonians. After Miss Emily had requested rat poison from the druggist, the town assumed that she was planning her own suicide. The facts of her relationship with Homer Barron, a Northerner, was too great a disgrace in the town’s eyes, and suicide seemed a viable option. The town was uncertain that Miss Emily would be able to convince Barron, who admitted that he was “not a marrying man,” to marry her. The town was concerned about the example Miss Emily was setting, and it send a Baptist minister to meet with her, but to no avail. When Miss Emily ordered a silver toilet set with Barron’s initials, along with a man’s suit, the town became convinced that the two would soon be married. Barron disappeared for three days, long enough for Miss Emily's cousins, who had been called in out of concern for Miss Emily, to leave. The town assumed that upon Barron’s return, the two would wed, but shortly after his reappearance in the town, he disappeared, never to be seen again by anyone. Once Barron disappeared for the last time, the town saw less and less of Miss Emily. When she did show herself again, she had grown fat and gray. Miss Emily removed herself from all public appearances and interactions. As the town is taken over by a “newer generation,” Miss Emily continues to grow “grayer and grayer” until her hair becomes the “vigorous iron-gray” color that it would have at her death. She refuses to put an address on her house. Then one day without any warning, Miss Emily died. When news of Miss Emily’s death spreads, a group of ladies from the town arrives at Miss Emily’s door and is briefly greeted by Tobe, who lets them in and immediately proceeds to walk out the back door, never to be seen again. A funeral is held two days later, with several of the men wearing their newly brushed Confederate uniforms. After Miss Emily was placed “decently in the ground,” a room above the stairs at Miss Emily’s, which has not been opened for years, is forced open. An “acrid pall as of the tomb” seemed to lie on everything in the room, including “upon the delicate array of crystal and the man’s toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured,” as well as upon a man’s suit of clothes. And on the bed was “the man himself,” with a “profound and fleshless grin.” Although never mentioned by name, the fleshless skeleton, in the position of an endless embrace, is that of Homer Barron. Next to his head is a second pillow, with the “indentation of another head,” and on it is a “long strand of iron-gray hair.” The conclusion to “A Rose for Emily” provides the story with the gothic- like twist that has been hinted at since the early stages of the story. With the conclusion, all the questions that the town had ever had over the years have been answered. What had happened to the man’s toiletry set and suit? What ever happened to Homer Barron? What was the Miss Emily doing on her own all those years? Themes. The Decline of the Old South. Before the Civil War, Southern society was composed of landed gentry, merchants, tenant farmers, and slaves. The aristocratic men of this period had an unspoken code of chivalry, and women were the innocent, pure guardians of morality. When the smell develops around the Grierson house, Judge Stevens asks, ‘‘Dammit, sir … will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?’’ Emily’s father is from this same generation, an arrogant Southern aristocrat who believes that no man is good enough for his daughter. Community vs. Isolation Emily continues to isolate herself from the rest of the community for the better part of her life. Emily alienated from the rest of Jefferson. The town seems to be almost obsessed with her. The ladies of Jefferson are The ladies think her relationship with Homer is ‘‘a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people.’’ Bad form for a Southern woman to associate with a Yankee.