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A Rose for Emily: Is the Past the Present

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"The past is never dead. It's not even past" (Faulkner). This is one of several themes in Faulkner's masterpieces to include "A Rose for Emily." In thinking of the meaning of this quote and how it holds true for "A Rose for Emily", we can see how Faulkner parallels the past with the present. Faulkner writes "A Rose for Emily" in such a manner that it can be viewed as the townsfolk sitting around collectively recalling their memories of Emily. It has an easy and informal tone beginning with Emily's death at age 74 then immediately jumping to the past and finally connecting the past to present events. Undoubtedly, Emily as a young woman, by definition, was a southern belle. The story begins by letting us know that "When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral" (Faulkner). She is referred to as "Miss" versus "Mrs." We can deduct that Emily died as an unwed woman or spinster. As a young woman, she was beautiful, indulged with every attention and comfort - and completely dependent upon the man in her life. Emily had a lifelong slave, Tobe, who, in her youth, was a young man.

Further, it is evident from the story that Emily came from money. The town's mayor, Colonel Satoris, had once made a proclamation imposing a tax on the entire town with the exception of Emily, deceiving the townsfolk into believing that the town was indebted to her father because her father once loaned the town money. Again, time passes while Emily refuses to acknowledge its passing and also refuses to pay the tax. She insists that if the town had an issue with her not paying taxes, they were to take it up with Colonel Satoris, but Colonel Satoris had been dead for ten years.

Faulkner gives us yet another clue in leading us up to the tale's macabre ending by describing a time when a peculiar and foul smell was emanating from Emily's home ultimately causing some of the townsfolk to sneak in at night to place lime in and around her property. I am certain that Faulkner knew all of these meticulous details about the past were extremely important to gathering suspense.

A southern belle or a lady was expected to be courted and wooed by gentlemen in order to find a suitable husband. While he was alive, Emily's father (for reasons unknown) kept would-be suitors away from his daughter. Her father's home, which "once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies" (Faulkner) became her home after her father's death. At the time of her father's passing, Emily refused anyone entry to her home for three days denying that her father was dead and not allowing for a burial. Through this revelation of a past occurrence, we are allowed to see the beginning of Emily's dementia and the story then begins to grow more complicated. It becomes clearer that all Emily is left with is her father's house, no viable source of income as well as no man, father or husband, to care for her.

Consequently, Emily is trapped in the past still within her father's control albeit she attempts to escape his control by making herself less "noblesse oblige," (Faulkner) oddly enough though she keeps a "crayon portrait" (Faulkner) of him by her fireplace in the parlor. Emily grows sick after his death and quite some time elapses before she is seen again. When she resurfaces, her appearance is different. Her hair is cut short, giving her girlish appearance although she was already well into her thirties. In my opinion, she has now begun to shirk her obligations as a southern belle; she is rebelling. She becomes involved with a northerner, Homer Barron. She yields freely to Barron and wants to marry him, going as far as purchasing a toiletry set engraved with Barron's initials, but his interest seems to be in hanging out with the guys and drinking beer. Emily



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