A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner Essay

“A rose of Emily” is a short story that was written by American author well known as William Faulkner. These were some of his first stories published in a national magazine in 1930 (Faulkner 3). In this story William Faulkner offers a story of an unconventional spinster. The person being referred to as spinster in this case is Emily. She is considered a spinster because of her father insistence that there was no young man who was good enough for her. This then makes Emily to lead a life of isolation. In addition, William Faulkner employs characterization, themes such as foreshadow and symbolism to indicate how Emily was restricted by her father and upon death she decides to take away the life of her only love, Homer (Faulkner 5). This therefore provides a literary research Faulkner “A Rose for Emily.”

Read “A Rose for Emily” summary in Studyfy Literature Study Guides

Setting of the Story

In literary terms, we can say that the setting of the story is rich in Faulkner. The setting is in a sinister old house in Mississippi. According to Faulkner (7), the author created his own Mississippi County, Yoknapatawpha, as the setting for the story that is much of his own fiction. This county comes with a variety of families including that of Grierson. In fact, this is a pretty good setting for the story. Although Jefferson and its inhabitants are unique, we can still view this town just like any other southern town during this particular period. The story marks a turning point to many of the inhabitants/southerners who lived during the era of slavery and did not know what to do following the end of this way of life, slavery. One can imagine being told that such a particular way of life is an atrocity or wicked. Followed by various generous southerners pride, and then it happens that you have a tragedy such as the one that is told on the onset of the story. One therefore becomes eager to know how future generations are bound to deal with such a legacy. In that regard, in order to understand the flow of the history, it is vital to comprehend the movement of Emily life. Therefore, this is equally vital in pinning down the chronological of events.

A Rose for Emily Genre

The genre of “A Rose for Emily” can be termed as tragic tale, Gothic fiction or horror, Southern Gothic, literary fiction, or modernism (Faulkner 8). Prior to seeing the forty-year-old corpse of Homer Barron rotting in the bed, the sinister Miss Emily, or the eerie house; we must admit that we are in the realm of Gothic fiction or horror. Given that the setting of this story is southern, it is therefore evident that it is not only a Gothic but a Southern Gothic. The southern Gothic genre focuses on the following: sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly – on slavery or repercussion of slavery in South and this very evident in “A rose of Emily.”

Characterization of “A Rose for Emily”

To begin with, Faulkner employs characterization in order to describe Emily as a wealthy crazy woman who is under the control of her father. Furthermore, her father maintains this control even after the death of Emily. Mrs. Grierson is considered to be lonely and is mainly interested in being loved. Miss Emily is an old-school southern belle who finds herself in a society that is bent and thus forcing her to stay in her role as a woman. This makes her to cling to the old way of life even with efforts to break free. Before is attains the age of forty years, she dies in a haunted house. This shows that Miss Emily is a tragic figure in this story.

The second figure/character is Tobe who is described as “an old man-servant.” He is also a gardener and a cook at the same time. This is a more mysterious character compared to Emily and probably, the one who knows the cause of all the mysteries in the story. He is also a major figure who brings out the theme of compassion and forgiveness. All we can say about Tobe is that he is viewed as a caregiver (Faulkner 8).

Thirdly, the other character is Emily father who is the guy with a gigantic horsewhip. Throughout the story, he is only referred to as Emily father. He did not approve of the man but is only seen in most instances when he controls the life of his daughter and insists that there is no young man to control his daughter. I think this is why he does it by himself. The story depicts Emily father as a very selfish man who lives in a selfish society under selfish restriction imposed on his daughter.

The fourth character is Homer Baron who Emily takes his life. However, throughout the play the focus of the tragedy solely lies on Emily. According to the narrator, Homer is not a sympathetic character because people do not like him. We also realize that Jeffersonians don’t like him because he comes from North; he is rough talker, and an overseer in town. Much of the story behind his death and his relationship with Emily remains unclear. We don’t also understand the circumstance under which he died in bed or Emily ends killing him.

The fifth character is Judge Stevens. Faulkner (9) affirms that he is one of the individuals that get one of the best lines in the story, “Dammit, sir, will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?” (2.9) although nothing much is highlighted about the judge but we can realize that he affirms that the smell would have raised an alarm for the need to inspect Emily home. He is also portrayed as an older person because we are told that he is 80 years of age and a very powerful southerner.

The sixth character is the Colonel who is said to have tried to relieve Emily of her taxes after the death of her dad. He is also the mayor who reigns during the period when Emily killed Homer but did not take immediate action to carry out an inspection of Emily home. He is the man that Judge Stevens accuses of abusing his office and according to Judge Stephens; he should have handed over powers to a different mayor.

The other group of characters is the two female cousins. The two cousins are more or less of Grierson than Miss Emily had ever been. This must not be misconstrued for an accolade. They are from Alabama and have relation to old lady Wyatt and had been estranged from Emily father since the time lady Wyatt passed on. Actually, they were estranged to an extent that they did not even attend the funeral of Emily father. The way the two cousins are portrayed in the story also exposes the darker irony within the play. They are also the people that townspeople call for to fight in ensuring that Emily stops dating Homer (Faulkner 12). However, the also indicate some sense of hatred to the cousins and in that case they push Emily to continue dating Homer Baron.

Finally, the last character is the Old Lady Wyatt who is a great aunt to Emily but on her father side. According to townspeople, prior to her death, she must have run mad. She is obviously brought forth to show that insanity runs in Emily family. Through her, we realize that in “A Rose for Emily,” there are various tragedies that people cannot run away from since it is in lineage of the society (Faulkner 14).

Writing Style of the story

The writing style is full of lushness and this seen as Faulkner makes the reader to feel the blooming magnolias and the natural habitat around Emily house breeding. This helps in hiding the harshness of the world that Emily lives in, a world that she does not belong to. This world is depicted in the complex sentence that Faulkner is fond of using. Another part of this lushness is the other side of nature, the side that no one wants to imagine of and the side that hides death and decay. This lushness is also ironic since we acknowledge that although Emily place was probably lush and she never went outside to enjoy it. Basically, the story only celebrates lush of life that pushes others to hide from the light.

Stylistic devices in “A Rose for Emily” (Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory or Foreshadow)

Throughout the entire history of literature, writers have employed various stylistic devices in their work with the aim of delivering a certain message. In “A Rose for Emily,” the author employs imagery to convey a message to the reader(s). He wisely uses this symbolism to harness the theme of deterioration of a great woman, Emily. In this case, Emily house is a very essential symbol in this story. In Gothic Literature in general, old family houses are very significant. The house is described as a

“big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies……. – an eyesore among eyesores. (1.2)(Allen 687).

The above-described house was built in 1870s and this creates the impression during this period the father worked hard. The house in this case is also a sign of Miss Emily isolation. In most scary stories, houses are usually used to display the opposite of what is supposed to be. Emily wanted to reside in a house that she can then proceed to marry the one she loved, Homer Barron. The stationary, pocket watch and the hair are symbols of time in the story. More so the struggle between the past and the future that is a threat that is likely to tear the present into pieces. This is clearly shown when the Board of Aldermen visits Emily to know concerning her taxes prior to her death (Faulkner 19). Generally, the Death of Emily therefore defined the enigma of her personality in the story. The story is the most mysterious and allegorical since it views Miss Emily as a fallen monument just like the house itself.

Plot of the story

In literary analysis of this poem, it is clear that the story has achieved almost all of the fundamental ingredients of a good story. Some of these ingredients include: the initial situation whereby in this case are death and taxes; conflict which clarifies a bizarre stuff about Emily; complication created by the town conscience; climax which comes roughly near the middle thus creating a symmetrical feeling; suspense where the relationship between Homer and Miss Emily is unclear; denouncement which clarifies or outlines Emily life that begins with a funeral; and finally the conclusion where the townspeople unearth what is inside a bedroom that remained closed for forty years, the bed and corpse of Homer (William 22).


William Faulkner “A Rose of Emily” is a tragic tale that he employs various stylistic devices to deliver message to the reader. He artistically employs flashbacks, symbolism, allegory, and shifts from time to time in order harness certain themes. We can also conclude that it is one of the tales that has properly used most of the fundamental ingredients of a good story. This story therefore serves as a toll for developing the horror and explicating the narrative that helps the reader to understand the whole story. The use of foreshadow is mainly aimed at preparing the reader of what is likely to be a gratuitous ending. In addition, it also creates structural and thematic unity within William Faulkner southern gothic literature (Faulkner 27).

According to literary research above, it is clear that in “A Rose of Emily,” there are varied arguments that one can come up with. One of them is that isolation is likely to lead to insanity. The other argument is that the descriptions of the times are fundamental in characterization of the varied state of mind as the townspeople attempt to evaluate Emily. This is clearly seen when the father force his daughter Emily to live in Isolation on the grounds that there is no young man who can take good care of her. Apparently, Miss Emily is also considered a spinster due to her father insistence. Eventually we realize that through her father insistence, she lost her sanity after the loneliness became unbearable. Emily then decides to poison Homer and after she also dies several men go upstairs and finds Homer corpse lying in the bed. Miss Emily represents the part of southerners that its history is prevented from growing due to its traditions that ultimately drives her to kill Homer Baron (Faulkner 31).

Works Cited

1. Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. New York: Perfection Learning, 2007. Print.