Expectations In A Rose For Emily By William Faulkner

1710 words - 7 pages

Expectations are everything, which is the ringing truth in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” The short story is centered in a post-civil war setting that shows how the views and values of the southern aristocracy change over time. A single narrator acts as the voice of the fictional town of Jefferson to tell the story as a whole through flashbacks and flash-forwards that tell the life of Emily Grierson, a woman from a very rich and elevated family in their society. Through the story, we learn that Emily is never permitted by her father to marry because none of the suitors are good enough for his daughter; after her father’s death, Emily, as the last living member of her family, begins to deteriorate to proportions that are not revealed until the end of the story. The reader learns that the man she falls in love with intends to leave her so she kills him and keeps his body in her bedroom and sleeps by his corpse every night for years until her death (Faulkner 79-84). These extreme situations were not caused by madness inside of Emily; instead, it was Emily’s need to conform to what society expected of her that triggered the craziness to develop. She felt the need to go to extreme measures to keep the expected traditions of her southern family alive, in the only way she knew how too. Because of the townspeople’s expectations of Emily, their involvement to try to change her, and their blind eye to obvious signs of murder, the people from the town of Jefferson become just as guilty, if not more, than Emily herself.
In order to understand the importance of the timeframe in which this story is written, it is imperative to look at the historical background of when this story was set. The story is set over a period of forty years, during which a change in societal thinking occurs. Emily’s family, the Griersons, is the typical wealthy, powerful southern family that has been around for hundreds of years, but change was occurring at a very fast rate. The more industrialized north was expanding their ways and traditions to the south, leaving the Antebellum Era as little more than a memory (Fang 19). This need to hold on to some aspect of the past explains why the town is so protective of Emily and willing to allow her to deny change (Dilworth 261).
At first, Emily is seen as “the common property of the town… a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation,” this allows her to refuse to conform to the new ways of life that are occurring all around her (Faulkner 79). This is seen when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor, does not make Emily pay taxes after her father’s death because he knows that she cannot afford them and that her bankruptcy would shame her. It is interesting that the mayor creates a story to tell Emily so that her pride will not be damaged (Faulkner 79). The story is so ludicrous that the narrator explains, “Only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman...

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