“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner: Character Analysis
A Rose for Emily is a short story written by William Faulkner, the American author famous for their contribution to the gothic genre in the twentieth century. Faulkner’s fiction pictures the realistic episodes reviving the darkest aspects of human personality and relationships between people. Indeed, the main character of A Rose for Emily, Emily Grierson, was an outsider in her town, where other inhabitants felt pity for her and made mysteries about her life. This paper aims to analyze Emily Grierson and discuss her characteristics described through the events of the story.
A Rose for Emily has no strict timeline of events as the story about Emily Grierson is mixed with the present circumstances of when she has already died and has been buried. The main character’s life is narrated by a group of inhabitants, allowing the reader to perceive her being from a distanced perspective the same way everyone in her town did. The story emphasizes her detachment from the community through the lack of specific details and the description of a ‘figure in a window’ rather than a woman with a visible face and emotions (Faulkner). Furthermore, only a few changes in Emily’s appearance were mentioned: after she was ill after the story with Homer Barron occurred, and as she got old.
Emily’s character is vividly pictured through her eccentric and old-fashioned behavior in the town where she lived. Faulkner portrayed her through unwillingness to pay taxes or get the mail number, explaining why she needed to buy poison, and refusing to bury her father’s body (Faulkner). These episodes reveal that Emily was out of the social values system to the degree that she did not obey the laws, regulations, and civic obligations. Moreover, her relationship with Homer Barron was against the social system as she had aristocratic roots while he was a Yankee lower in the status. The town was interested in their love story because it was rare to them, and marriage was the most important chapter of a woman’s life.
Another crucial characteristic is that Emily was frozen in the past; her life did not change throughout the years. Faulkner described that as she died, “the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house” (Faulkner). Her refusal to let the past go is also portrayed through the author’s frequent mentioning of the dust and her old-fashioned house.
Emily Grierson’s circumstances made the inhabitants call her poor, and when she bought the poison, people thought that she was aiming to commit suicide to end her miserable life. The story’s ending revealed the purpose of the arsenic she bought: Homer Barron’s dead body was found in her house’s bedroom (Faulkner). Combined with Emily’s inability to give out her father’s body to bury, a reader may conclude that she was a necrophiliac.
However, her attitude can also be described as the desire to control life and force others to follow the scenario she wants. Faulkner described her relationship with her father as “we had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground” (Faulkner). Consequently, her controlling character was inherited as she did not know the alternative behavior, and the Yankee, who was not a marrying type of man, was murdered to stay in Emily’s life forever.
The description of dark human traits and the consequences of not conquering them are the part of gothic literature that enables the readers to analyze themselves and the people around them. Emily Grierson is the character described from the distance because the town was scared of her and responded to her direct refusal to settle in the community. Her controlling attitudes and years spent in the house without reaching the society enforced her outsiderness through which Faulkner emphasized how such people are perceived.
Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily, 1930. Web.