The short story written by William Faulkner, “A Rose For Emily,” is an infinitely interesting piece of literature. The elements of the short story utilizes an unconventional narrative style—the story is told from the perspective of an outsider, a in a third person limited point of view, and in a non-linear fashion. But what stands out the most for me is that the narrator is also an unreliable narrator. Everything we read about Miss Emily is an amalgamation of historical gossip from town so that the reader only sees Miss Emily from the murky eyes of the townspeople. Evidently, Miss Emily is seen by the town as a symbol of tradition, but also as a woman who is eccentric, pitiful, but also irritating in her stubbornness, who in the end became a deranged woman. However, “A Rose For Emily” is at its core, a story about power, more specifically about a woman trying to reclaim power over her life and finds that she can gain power over the men in her life only in their death. Being a woman in the Reconstruction Era, Miss Emily does not really have control over her life. In this essay, I will demonstrate that Miss Emily’s attempts to gain control of her life in a time when women were still considered inferior drove her to murder and necrophilia, through which she finally has complete control over a man.
Based on the account of the narrator, Miss Emily’s father, Mr. Grierson, controlled her in her youth and prevented her from marrying. So, when Mr. Grierson died, Miss Emily was an old maid, with no one to take care of her. The narrator expressed that the town felt sorry for Miss Emily because her father left her nothing but the house, and she, being a woman, does not have any other means of income. It appears, too, that it was out of pity that Colonel Sartoris “invented” a tale about Mr. Grierson’s contribution to the town to remit her taxes. So, Miss Emily’s life, after being governed by her father, is now governed by pity from the people around her. However, as the narrator suggested, Miss Emily was a proud woman.
After her father’s death, the people of their town tried to persuade Miss Emily to follow the new rules and laws. Throughout the attempts, Miss Emily remained firm and held her ground. The stories heard by the narrator suggests that Miss Emily did not use reason to get her way. She simply said no and dismissed whoever tried to talk to her. These stories about Miss Emily reinforces the 19th and 20th century stereotype of women as unreasonable—a description Miss Emily had no say in since the story was told from an outsider’s point of view.
Throughout the short story, Miss Emily attempted to regain control of her life. For example, her teaching china-painting lessons and then dating Homer Barron. Her china-painting lessons were a success at first but was not sustained to the next generations. She ran out of customers and so returned to her reclusive life. The next time Miss Emily appears to be taking control of her life is when she was seen with Homer Barron. We can imply, from the details of the story, that the relationship did not work, and that Homer Barron tried to leave her. Evidence from the locked room suggests that Miss Emily prevented Homer Barron from leaving by poisoning him. She continued to live as if he were alive. However, this time, he does not contradict her or does not consider leaving her. She has full control over him and their “life” together.
Throughout her life, Miss Emily did not have control over the direction of her life, as her father did it for her. Furthermore, the society of her time—way before feminist movements, such as the Time’s Up movement—does not afford women agency over their life. It is no wonder, then, that Miss Emily resorted to extreme ways to gain control over her life. Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily,” thus could be read as a critical depiction of society and the standing of women.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose For Emily.” https://archive.org/stream/ARoseForEmily1930/A_Rose_for_Emily_djvu.txt