Rose for Emily for Some People, Letting Essay

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Rose for Emily

For some people, letting go of the past is particularly difficult, whether they are holding on because their past was spectacular and wonderful, or, as in William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the past is all they have. For Miss Emily Grierson, the title character in Faulkner's grotesque, haunting tale, the past offers a place of safety and respectability unavailable to her in the present. The townspeople who once held her aristocratic family in reverence has morphed into a crass and detached place, and Emily is the victim of this passage of time and values. Faulkner presents Miss Emily sympathetically and the reader feels for her as she powerlessly watches time pass and the town's respect for her dwindle, an inescapable indictment of the "new" values of the South.

Miss Emily Grierson was born into an aristocratic family in the post-Civil War South. Her family's house was on the "most select street" and her family name was among the most "august" in the town. Her standing in the town is clear, and the narrator describes her as "a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town…." By the time of her death, however, her family's grand house is now shabby and forgotten, and cotton gins and garages have ruined the once fair landscape. None of the other old houses remain -- they have passed away along with their residents, the last representatives of a generation gone by. Miss Emily herself had become a curiosity. No one had been inside her home for over a decade, and she had rarely been seen in the years since her one suitor, Homer Barron, had come and gone for the last time. Her life had become more and more strange, and she had become more entrenched in the comforts of the past. Unable to adapt to the new world emerging around her, Miss Emily secludes herself in her home and creates for herself a world which does not bow to the pressures of time; a world which does not change.
Faulkner emphasizes again and again the difference between Miss Emily and the "next generation, with its more modern ideas." The story is reminiscent of the biblical story of Joseph and the Israelites. Joseph was a revered and respected aide to a pharaoh of Egypt, but by the time of Moses' generation, there arose a pharaoh who did not know Joseph, who did not remember the respect once afforded his people. Over Miss Emily's lifetime, a changing of the guard has happened in her town. The Civil War heroes like Colonel Sartoris who once ran the town have all preceded her in death, and the accommodations they afforded her are not respected by the newest generation of leaders. For example, when her father died, Colonel Sartoris, then the town's mayor, gave her a permanent remission on all of her taxes in perpetuity. "Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented," the cover story for the remission, Faulkner writes, and the next generation of leaders does indeed try to bill Miss Emily for her taxes. She, however, has not moved on in time, and refuses to pay them, sending each bill back to the mayor "on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink," without payment. A promise had been….....

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