A Rose for Emily and Southern History

A review of William Faulkner’s short story A Rose for Emily with an emphasis on the influence of Southern history on the story.

This paper analyzes the short story A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, about a woman who, about to be deserted by her lover poisons him and keeps his body in an upstairs bedroom for forty years. It looks at how Faulkner infuses the story with a political and social structure related to the slave-owning past of the South by the relationship of the main character of Emily to the other members of the small town in which she lives. There is also a comparison of themes and literary styles within the story to other works by the same author.
Outside her home are all the expectations of society, expectations she cannot meet. The townspeople observe Emily’s every action, and the people always seem to be trying to watch her through the windows as they pass. Faulkner wrote of the South at a time when many could still remember the Civil War and its aftermath, and the society of Faulkner’s time still tried to hold onto certain traditional truths. Women were still being judged by pre-Civil War criteria. Emily is no different. She even lives up to those ideals in public, doing what is expected of her, withdrawing to avoid scandal or talk. Her reality is a very different reality, a reality of murder and revenge.