William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is the story of a woman’s
reluctance towards change. The story encompasses the entire town’s unwillingness
to change, while focusing on the protagonist, Emily Grierson. Faulkner uses
symbols throughout the story to cloak an almost allegorical correlation to the
reconstruction period of the South. Even though these symbols are open to
interpretation, they are the heart and soul of the story. While the literal
meaning of Faulkner’s story implies many different conclusions, it is primarily
the psychological and symbolic aspects which give the story meaning. Exploring
these aspects will shed light on Faulkner’s intention of “A Rose for
Emily.” After Emily Grierson’s domineering father dies, she refuses to move
on. By defining “moving on” as letting go, we see that Emily is lodged
in the past, unable to ameliorate as the rest of society does. Whenever anything
drastic occurs, Emily becomes reclusive,”After her father’s death she went
out very little… after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at
all.” (428), the narrator explains. She had Tobe, her butler to interact
with the world so that she didn’t have to face reality. Psychologically, this is
very important in terms of how Emily views the world and why she commits murder.

If unable to change, one will die in time. Emily though was held to the code of
“noblesse oblige” (430). This meant that even in dire need, Emily
would never reveal her true feelings to the common folk of Jefferson. So she
distorts time, refusing to accept the fact that her father was dead: The day
after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer
condolence and aid, as is our custom. Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed
as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father
was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her,
and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as
they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her
father quickly. (429) Emily now clear of her father’s “horsewhip”
(429), was free to explore her sexuality. This newfound freedom led her to fancy
a Yankee day laborer named Homer Barron. Her father would never have approved of
a commoner such as Homer as the townsfolk point out, “We remembered all the
men her father had driven away” (429). Their relationship grew and the
townspeople suspected that they would be married, as is the southern way. They
were mildly surprise that they were not to be married attributing it to
“that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman’s life so many
times…” (432). Her father had doomed her life, stifling any chance for
growth. Not all of the blame is to be placed on Emily’s father, rather, it
should be spread among the people of the town, her father, and Emily herself.

This falling out with Homer is the turning point in the story. Instead of
grieving as a normal person would, Miss Emily turns into a psychotic crazed
lover. At this point in the story she ceases to only be called Miss Emily; and
the town chooses to add poor Emily , as if a noble Grierson would need pity.

Rather than sulk, Emily goes to the drugstore to buy poison, expectedly to kill
herself. She displays her force as a Grierson to the unsure druggist when he
asks why she requires poison, “Miss Emily just stared at him, her head
tilted back in order to look him eye to eye, until he looked away and went and
got the arsenic and wrapped it up” (431). She used her influence as a
Grierson to get what she wanted, even though at this point, the Grierson name,
through several humbling events, was losing its vigor. Still alive, Emily again
chooses to live a hermit’s life, now that Homer is gone. She again takes refuge
in her house which literally and figuratively is Miss Emily’s denial of reality
and time. This is the initiation of her downfall and ultimatly her lonely death.

She refused to be accepted as what she truley was, a commoner. “…She
demanded nore than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson”
(430). Emily, in her home, which for her, was functioning as a temporal shelter,
was impervious to the progression that was sweeping the rest of society.

“Miss Emily alone