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A Rose for Emily


A Rose for Emily by novelist William Faulkner (1897-1962) is a gothic short story set in the town of Jefferson, Mississippi in the post-civil war years around the turn of the century. William Faulkner was and is still a very popular southern writer whom accomplishments include a Nobel Prize for literature in 1949 among his long list of awards and recognitions. He often wrote of a fictional Civil War General name General Sartoris. Faulkner even mentioned him in A Rose for Emily. William Faulkner was also well respected among southern people due to the fact that he was viewed as a local celebrity, regardless of where you were in the south. In A Rose for Emily, Faulkner paints a picture of an elderly woman whose last years of her life were spent locked in her home away from the rest of the town, which led to many speculations and rumors about her personal life. The story is told through the eyes of an unnamed narrator who serves as the collective voice of the town. Throughout the story, many aspects come to light regarding Emily Grierson and what happened to the object of her affection and how she dealt with the adversity of dealing with the death of loved ones and on up to the death of Emily, herself. This story demonstrates “Ugly Love” and its effects on both the subject that exemplifies ugly love and the objects of their affection.


The main character is an elderly recluse named Emily Grierson. Emily is the last living member of a once prominent family in Jefferson, and is seen by many as some type of sideshow due to the fact that she never leaves her house and has a very standoffish demeanor. When reading along in the story, Emily could have been a daddy’s girl in her younger years. She was the type of daddy’s girl that was sheltered from the outside world and grew up with a skewed sense of reality. Aside from her hired helper named Tobe, Emily lived alone after father’s death. William Faulkner wrote through the voice of the narrator “When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.”(Faulkner 323). When reading that line, one could gain the sense that Emily had lived a privileged life and the reality of living a life where she was not protected from her father would be a hard life to live. The emotional toll of her father’s death was so severe that it caused her to become distant from the rest of the world and oftentimes stayed in her home for months without leaving. Clearly the love she had for her father was a very strong love and one that could be viewed as dependent. This is where ugly love first shows up. She loved her father so much because he grew up in a world distorted from that of the real world and the shock of losing him completely turned word upside down. Ugly love can be exhibited by both Emily and her father. From Emily’s fathers sheltering to the point where it would adversely affect her when he was not there anymore to Emily’s loving dependence upon her father that would also cause her to not have a sense of reality, ugly love is evident in the relationship between father and daughter.

Emily Grierson

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A second form of ugly love is the ugly love that Emily exemplifies towards a man named Homer Barron. Emily met Homer when there was sidewalk and road construction being performed out in front of her home. William Faulkner described him in the third chapter through the voice of the unnamed narrator, “The construction company came with riggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, a Yankee--a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face”(Faulkner 325). Emily and Homer developed some sort of relationship, as they were often seen riding around Jefferson in his buggy and spending time together. After some time, Emily and Homer were set to be married. The townspeople were happy and relieved for her due to the fact that she shut herself off from the rest of the world after her father’s death and had now had a new lease on life, so to speak, that would allow her to love and be loved in return. Homer, however, was rumored to have a preference for men when it came to the subject of his desires. It was Emily’s ugly love, an ugly love that would not allow anyone else to have him, that caused her to purchase arsenic from the general store and poison her fiancé to death.


The third example of ugly love is that of the town of Jefferson’s people’s love for drama, mystery, intrigue, and curiosity about her life and what she did in her home for all those years when she was separated from the rest of the community. The narrator, whom remains unnamed, spoke of times when people were bothered by a wretched smell emanating from the Grierson residence. These people were so curious as to what was causing the smell, they snuck into her yard to spread lime in the yard and the basement level of the home and took the time to look at her through a window to see her sitting in her home, “So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork and at the cellar openings while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder. They broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the outbuildings. As they re-crossed the lawn, a window that had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol”(Faulkner 326). This ugly love went on even more later in the story when the towns people broke in to the upstairs level of the home after Emily’s death when Faulkner wrote through the voice of the narrator “Already we knew that there was one room in that region above stairs which no one had seen in forty years, and which would have to be forced. They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it”(Faulkner 326). The towns people were so intrigued by the rumors and stories of Emily that they went as far as breaking into areas of her home. The love for mystery, intrigue, curiosity and the infatuation they had for answering the questions and rumors could easily be viewed as an ugly love from a society standpoint. It was possible that each person would not go into that house and snoop around by themselves or break into the upstairs level of the home, but when the collective groups of people began to speak of the rumors and curiosities, their ugly love for their own validation overran any thoughts of leaving things to the authorities.

If when reading A Rose for Emily you begin to think that there are similarities between that this story and another you have read or seen on film, you might not be imagining things. There are eerie similarities between Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock and A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, in that the main character in each story keeps the dead body of someone they loved in a living display. An example of such a similarity isthe body of the dead mother in Psycho is displayed in the rocking chair or in A Rose for Emily when the body of the dead fiancé laying on the bed in a suit. The three examples of ugly love mentioned are all good examples of the various ways that ugly love is represented in A Rose for Emily. Love can be ugly in terms of a dependence and love of a parent and the child not being able to adapt to life after the parent dies, which can often be caused by severe separation anxiety. Love is also be ugly when the fear of separation from another loved one leads to drastic measures in order to keep them to oneself or from the rest of the world, the person with the fear of being left alone kills the other person out of anger, jealousy, or selfishness. Lastly, the general public’s love and infatuation with finding answers to the unknown can cause groups of people to act in a way they would not normally act if they were not in a crowd.



Additional information about WilliamFaulkner



William Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi. Faulkner wsa considered a Southern Gothic writer whom works included poems but found fame in his novels based in the American South. William Faulkner also graduated from the University of Mississippi and became one of their most celebrated Alums. William Faulkner passed away on July 6, 1962.



Works Cited

Faulkner, William “A Rose for Emily.” Delbanco, Nicholas and Alan Cheuse. Literature Craft and Voice. Second Edition. New York City: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print


“William Faulkner” 2013. The Biography Channel website. A&E Networks. 11 November 2013 http://www.biography.com/people/william-faulkner-9292252


"Emily Grierson" Image. Bing Search. Bing. 18 November 2013. Web 18 November 2013


“William Faulkner” Image. Bing Search. Bing, 18 November 2013. Web 18 November 2013

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