Emily Grierson Living In The Past In William Faulkner's A Rose For Emily

1590 words - 6 pages

Emily Grierson Living in the Past in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily

   In "A Rose for Emily," by William Faulkner, Emily Grierson seems to be living with her father in what people referred to as the old South.  However, most of the story takes place after the Civil War, but Miss Emily is clearly living in the past.  As critic Frederick Thum pointed out, "Many people are able to survive in the present, but give little or no thought to the future, and these people usually live in the past.  Such a mind is the mind of Miss Emily Grierson..."(1).  Miss Emily's comprehension of death, her relationship with the townspeople, and her reaction toward her taxes are clear examples that she is living in the past.

            At the beginning of the story, the narrator tells the reader that "our whole town went to her funeral"(336).  The narrator goes on and informs the reader that,  "She was a 'fallen monument...[sig] a tradition, a duty and a care: a sort of hereditary obligation upon this town'"(Pierce 850).  "Miss Emily was referred to as a 'fallen monument' because she was a 'monument' of Southern gentility, and ideal of past values but fallen because she had shown herself susceptible to death (and decay" (Rodriguez 1).  By the time of Emily's death most of the people in her town were younger than she and had never been able to include her in their lives or community activities.  She has stood mainly as a example of an older ideal of Southern womanhood, even though she had grown fat and pale in her later years.  The older and younger generations of townspeople treated Miss Emily differently.  "'The older generation, under the mayoralty of Colonel Sartois, has relieved Miss Emily of her taxes and has sent its children to take her china painting classes in the same spirit that they were sent to church on Sunday with a twenty-five-cent piece for the collection plate." The new generation, however, is not pleased with the accommodations its fathers made with Miss Emily; it tries to impose taxes upon her and it no longer sends its children to take her lessons"(Pierce 850).  Since many of the members of the older generation have retired or have died, the younger generation wanted her to pay her taxes because there was nothing written down that said that she was exempt from paying them.  When the younger generation asked her to pay her taxes, Emily said that Colonel Sartoris had told her she had not taxes to pay in Jefferson.  The problem as that Colonel Sartoris has been dead for ten years.  Even though he was dead, the "Colonel had given his word, and according to traditional view, his word knew no death.  It is the past pitted against the present-the past with its social decorum, the present with everything set down in 'the books'"(Rodriguez 1).

Miss Emily also shows how she is living in the past when her father dies.  She told everyone that came to get his body that her father was still alive, she refused to believe he was dead.  However,...

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