William Faulkner, a writer brought up in the South, displayed the upbringing and lifestyles of people in a certain town. The theme revolved around the life of a lady name Emily Grierson. She is a southern woman, whose failed attempt at life is kept secret from her town until her death. By explaining her upbringing by a stern father, her midlife climax and her slow journey through a secluded life to her death, Faulkner shows how clinging on to tradition by Emily's father ruined her life.
To understand Faulkner's theme, one must understand the characters and the background of Faulkner. William Faulkner, is a Southerner and he writes of the South, particularly the old south, with true insight. As the female protagonist, Emily is a sort of example of a bygone era. She's from an upper class where family name is venerated and to be maintained at almost any cost. Her father, under the appearance of "protection," which was actually control, chases away suitors so that he may keep her for his housekeeper. When her last chance at matrimony deserts her, she kills him and then sleeps in the same bed with the rotting body for decades, until her own death. Officials do not pursue her suitor Homer Barron's disappearance for the same reason they do not force her to pay taxes. It is also the same reason she does not rebel against her father. It is because she is a Grierson, well to do Southerners in a big, ornate house on a fashionable street in a time where men were gentlemen, women were ladies and there was a strong, strict code of behavior and everyone "knew their place".
Faulkner narrates the story through a townsman, and does not give much opinion to the story to create a much more dramatic and surprising conclusion. In the beginning of the short story, he does give clues to the life of Emily Grierson. He explains the tradition that is deeply rooted in her father's customs. It is not until the reader has completely finished the book, when one realizes that it was the father's traditional ways that shaped Emily's life as Faulkner presents it.
The predominant theme that surrounds the story is how clinging to the past can be harmful when all other surrounding aspects of life change. The town matured around the Grierson's home, while the men that once desired to marry Emily changed their attitudes, and Emily, not knowing anything better, clung to the only life that her father allowed her to experience.