A Rose for Emily Essay

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A Rose for Emily Essay: Customs and Values

A Rose for Emily is a short story by William Faulkner which reflects the spirit of the time when it was written. The temporal and spatial setting of the story reveals the plot in two dimensions: the old times and the modern times (Gehmlich). Ms. Emily lives somewhere in between these two periods of time. Even though she is an outcast, she is influenced by the culture and traditions typical for her society. Emily is not happy because she remains to live and think in terms of her past, and she cannot follow the rapid pace of changes in the community of Jefferson.

The country created by Faulkner, called Yoknapatawpha, is situated in Mississippi. The actions in the story take place in Mississippi, and it is a little and very well-developed society which reflects the life in the United States as it is. Actions take place in Jefferson, which is like every town in the United States. It has its inner rules and traditions; people watch each other and expect each other to behave in accordance with the established rules in their society.

Marriage is treated as one of the most important social values. Emily, who is getting older, is sympathized as she is alone. When she starts seeing Homer Barron, first the community is happy for her. People expected her to marry him and in this way find her place in the community. People were observing her situation, but no changes occurred. After this, people still hoped that she would manage her private life and marriage. Still, her beloved Homer Barron led an active social life and he does not want to marry her. Perhaps, social pressure was one of the reasons why she had to kill Homer Barron. It was the only reason to make him stay with her. People expect her either to hide or to run away, but she saves her dignity, at least in the way she looks.

The Sartoris family is well-respected, but the anti-social life led by Emily makes her an outcast in her community. After the disappearance of the Barron Homer, she is almost never visible in public. It was a matter of social concern. In the little town like Jefferson people have to have an active social life in order to show that they are parts of that community.

Racial discrimination was a cultural tradition as well. The actions take place after the abolition of slavery, but the position of servants in the society remain low. It is visible from the story that it happens in times where racial discrimination was treated as a norm. All servants were African American. The relative of Ms. Emily implemented the reform according to which African Americans were not allowed to go somewhere without an apron, which would indicate their low social status. Emily had an African American servant, who served for her until her death. His life was predetermined to be connected with Sartoris kin.

One more tradition mentioned in the story is the mourning, which had to be obeyed when people died. After the death of her father, Emily was not sad at all. The community is depicted as being heavily involved, because people do not hesitate to pry into the lives of each other. For instance, Breem points out the fact that most men joined the funeral rite just because there was a fallen monument. Women wanted to go to the funerals “just to get inside the house”. The importance of public opinion and judgment was fostered by Jefferson citizens (Breem 3).

Emily belonged to the influential family of Sartoris. She was not engaged in the public life, but, at the same time, people treated her not as a person, but as a museum item. She became part of the environment. When she was a child, she grew in the atmosphere of constant fear. Her father was pressing on everybody and seemed to be emotionally unstable. Emily was quite the same. She was not only asocial, but people thought that she had some mental disorder, which was common for the whole family of Sartoris. The fear and respect to the father of the family determined the fate of the offsprings. People were careful with Sartoris and never initiated even minor conflicts. The attitude towards the family is reflected in the fact that when all citizens were disturbed by the bad smell coming from the house of Emily, they addressed not the owner of the house; they wrote to the police.

The problem for Emily is that she had a brilliant past, respect, and money, but she degrades with some time. Her personality and character is reflected in the setting of her house. Inside her house, there is leather furniture and different luxurious possessions. At the same time, all this luxury is covered with dust. Some things are broken; it is visible that most of the things are out of use for many years. According to Inoue, she lives in constant “psychological dissolution” (286). She has no perspectives for the future, at the same time, the past remains past and she is deprived of the opportunities she used to have before. She is archaic in modern society; she purposefully isolates herself from it and lives her life alone…

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