Throughout “A Rose for Emily”, William Faulkner reveals that change didn’t come so easy to some of the folk living in the south at the end of the American Civil War. Some people of the south clung to the values and the way of life, for which they once knew. Miss Emily Grierson was one of these folk. Throughout “A Rose for Emily”, “Emily represents the Pre-Civil War South, and her mind is stuck in the past time period” (Shokouhfar, par. 4). Her actions depicted throughout the story exemplify her unwillingness to abide by new found rules and her fear of losing and letting go.
After the death of her father, Emily refused to believe he had past and resorted back to her ordinary life. She had lived under his control for so long and it was hard for her to accept his death knowing she will not have anyone to govern her life anymore. As the people of Jefferson “come to offer condolence and aid” (Norton, 791), she acts like nothing has happened “with no trace of grief on her face” (Norton, 791). Emily was filled with despair with the death of her father, knowing she would now be alone and change was about to come.
This led her to keep her father’s body in the house while telling people, “her father was not dead” (Norton, 791). After three days of her unconscious behavior, the people “were about to resort to law and force” (Norton, 791) ,but Emily finally “broke down” (Norton, 791) and released her father’s body for a quick burial. The people of the town have characterized Emily Grierson as a woman of southern hierarchy that is unable to give in to the demands of the new era of post-Civil War. After her father’s death, Emily began to receive tax notices in the mail and she simply ignored them or mailed them back without comment.
Emily believes that she is exempt from paying taxes because “Colonel Sartoris”, a sheriff of previous generations, “invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily’s father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying” (Norton, 788). When the city authorities come into her home to tell her that she can no longer evade paying her taxes, she simply expels them by saying, “See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson” (Norton, 789).
One problem to Emily’s refute was that “Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years” (Norton, 789),but she believes him to still be the sheriff. The people of Jefferson uphold Emily Grierson to be propped on a pedestal, therefore, her hindered view of the present is overlooked. After the outlandish conversation between Miss Emily and the authorities, no taxes were ever forced to be paid by Ms. Grierson. Maybe the remitting of her taxes would have pushed Emily towards being an ordinary member in the community. A couple years after her father past away, a man by the name of Homer Barron had come into town and befriended Emily.
At the chance of having another male companion to fill the void that was her father, Emily clung to the idea of getting married to Homer Barron. However, “she is unable to get over the fact that he does not want to marry her” (Shokouhfar, par. 7) and she kills him with arsenic poison to prevent him from ever leaving her alone. Forty years later, preceding the death and burial of Emily, the townspeople uncover the body of Homer Barron in an upstairs bedroom in the Grierson home. Surrounded with the items Emily had purchased with the anticipation of her marriage, such as “a man’s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.
B. on each piece” and “a complete outfit of men’s clothing” (Norton, 793), lay Homer Barron’s corpse. The “indentation of a head” and the “long strand of iron-gray hair” (Norton, 796) that was found on the pillow beside Homer, was proof that Emily had problems of letting go. Even though her love was deceased, for many years, she had laid beside his rotting body in a room made up to be a shrine of what could have been. The townspeople viewed Emily as a figure head representing the ways of the old south; however, their obscured view on Emily did not allow them to see her in her true light.
William Faulkner writes that people should let go of the past in order to welcome their future. Unfortunately, Emily Grierson cannot find a way to let go of her past and accept change; therefore, resorting to a life of solitude and grief.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily. ” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings. 2nd Ed. : Richard Bullock and Maureen Daly Goggin. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. Print. 787-796. Shokouhfar, Shohreh. “A Rose for Emily: The Theme and Her Characteristics. ” Bookstove. com. Bookstove, May 10, 2009. Web. October 31, 2012.