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An Analysis Of – A Rose For Emily

A Rose for Emily

The great William Faulkner's renowned short story "A Rose for Emily" was published in Forum Magazine on 30 April 1930. 

For those unaware, this was Faulkner's first-ever short story published in a noteworthy national journal. 

Through his work, Faulkner explores the many faces of society – terror, mental ailment, dark desires, violence, human decay, and society's unwillingness to grasp Emily's situation.

As expected, his work earned many accolades from other literary exponents and inevitably won Faulkner the Noble Prize in the field of Literature. 

A Glance at “A Rose for Emily”

The story pertains to a young and beautiful unmarried woman residing in an American South region who comes to the attention of the town folks after her father's untimely passing. 

As the story progresses, Emily faces many hardships and eventually becomes romantically entangled with some Northerner, Yankee

Furthermore, the short story gives rise to several interpretations and, over time, has become the subject of many analyses and commentary. 

Although the short story's title appears blushy, warm, and optimistic, it holds a deeper meaning. The story is not one of sunshine or rainbows. Instead, it comprises gloomy texts and lots of thematic elements. 

They Are –

  • One respected aristocratic family's dilapidated estate
  • Emily retaining her father's corpse after loving him for years.
  • Emily's mental illness caused by her father's death and heartbreak eventually pushing her into a state of necrophilia and loneliness.

In this paper, we summarize the short story for your proper understanding. So, those who have to write a paper on this short story- follow closely!

Summary of “A Rose for Emily”

The short story is segregated into 5 sections.

The Chronological Order of ‘A Rose for Emily

Emily Grierson is born around the Civil War to Mr Grierson- a controlling man who kept her isolated from child to adulthood.


Emily's father died in 1894. After his death, Emily kept this secret for 3 days. Moreover, Colonel Sartoris relieved Emily's family from paying taxes. Over time Emily grew estranged and eventually stopped socialising with any one.


When Emily is in her 30s, she meets Homer Barron a Yankee from New York. The two become close and begin a relationship. The town folks disapprove and even state Homer is beneath Emily. They call up Emily's cousins and request them for an extended stay


Emily is seen buying Arsenic (rat poison). The town folks assume she will take her life. These notions change when she is also seen buying male clothes, shaving kit and other male items. This made everyone think she and Homer will marry and leave town. However, after 3 days Emily's cousins leave. Soon after Homer goes to Emily's house and then is seen no


Two years after Meterson's demise, Emily's house started smelling. Once everyone in town found out, they sprinkled lime around her residence at mid-night. After two weeks, the smell disappears. But no one knows about Emily.


The narrative takes us back 30 years. During that time the town's chiefs comes to Emily's house to revise previous deals made pertaining to tax payment. Emily states she doesn't care and won't do anything.


Emily dies at the age of 74. The whole town comes to her funeral and reminses memories of Emily's recluse life.


Some town folks enter Emily's prohibited home in decades. As they the upstair bedroom, they find Homer's corpse and a head indentation and grey hair strands on the pillow besides the body.

 (Section 1)

Faulkner's short story begins with the grave news of the protagonist - Miss Emily Grierson's death, who resided as a recluse in a large townhouse. 

From the starting scene, we learn that Miss Emily, a 70-year-old obese woman, lacks familial ties. The only other face she saw leading up to her death was that of her black servant, Tobe!

A cacophony of voices understandable through the narration depicts the town folk's jibber-jabber upon attending the funeral of Miss Emily. Moreover, several town women curiously wanted to see inside Emily's house (that no one was allowed to enter for years).

Per the narration, we learn that Emily's residence is the last vestige of splendor or the last era. The town's major, then Colonel Sartoris, deferred Emily's taxes post the death of Mr. Grierson by justifying that Emily's father once provided a huge sum of money for the community's betterment. However, after the Colonel's passing away, the town appoints a new leader to regulate things. 

Throughout the story, the plot keeps going back and forth and relies on memories, flashbacks, and stereotypes to depict various parts of Emily's life. These chain of events winds up into a dark, gothic, scary tale. While the constant shifts of time and events reveal a lot about Emily's character, it is difficult to put all the puzzle pieces together until the end. 

The plot thickens with the story taking us 10 years back when the town's aldermen entered the Grierson's house to confront Miss Emily and her inability to pay her due taxes. 

To this confrontation, Miss Emily Grierson tells the town's aldermen that she doesn't owe taxes to anyone. Emily further states she is not indebted to pay taxes, and for further explanation, the aldermen should go and speak to Colonel Sartoris.

However, we learn that the Colonel died nearly a decade. After clarifying, she summons her servant Tobe to show those men the way out. 

(Section II)

The 2nd section is another plot transition and takes us to a different time 3 decades before when Emily resisted another official visit. The town folks sensed a strong acrid stench from the Grierson's residence. This incident took place precisely two years after Emily's father died. 

After Mr. Grierson's demise, things went from bad to worse for Emily. Soon she experiences heartache when her lover (whom everyone in town thought she would marry) disappears. Due to this, Emily very rarely left the house to go outside. She confined herself to the walls and remained indoors. 

In response to the inexplicable stench coming out from the Grierson's residence, a different group of town folk came to the Grierson's residence to know the reason.

The neighbors even complained to the Major that the Griersons' house started to stink exponentially. However, the Major refrained from acting and considered it a delicate issue.  

However, when the stench became stronger and the complaints mounted, Judge Stevens (the major then) permitted the town folks to sprinkle lime all around and beneath the Grierson house to rid the vile stench from it.

The issue was resolved within a couple of weeks. However, the town folks began pitying the overly reclusive Emily, who seemed dredged in her sorrow and sickness. The town folks even reminisced about Emily's aunt, who suffered from similar mental sickness and eventually succumbed to insanity. 

The narration reveals that the Griersons always strived to be important and noble. Mr. Grierson (Emily's father) was the patriarchal head of the family. He was always overprotective of Emily and kept her isolated from the world. During those times, Emily's only identity was that of her father's little girl. 

Through Emily's feelings and connection towards her father, we learn she was very fond of him even though he did not pay attention to Emily's emotional and companionship needs. Mr. Grierson would chase away all potential suitors using his horsewhip. He established dominance in all facets of their residence. 

Due to Mr. Grierson's strict policies and standards, Emily's marriage probabilities were low. We learn that Emily was still single when she entered her 30s.  

Of course, after Mr. Grierson died, Emily's heart was ripped wide open. She was wallowing in grief and dismay. The narrative reveals Emily's mental condition and its gradual descent. The following day after Mr. Grierson's passing away, the town's women went to see Emily to offer her their condolences.

However, when Emily met them at the main door, she told them her father wasn't dead. Despite seeing her dead father, she refused to accept his death. She retained his body and kept it locked away in her bedroom, and this charade continued for 3 days. 

The situation depicted is so relatable to life that it touches your soul. Witnessing Emily's pain and heartache, the doctors had to convince her to allow her father's body to be buried and consequently grant him peace forever. 

Also Read: Great Expectations - An Overview

(Section III)

The following section describes Emily's illness after the shock and heartbreak from her father's demise. Fortunately, the town folks remained civil and didn't pay too much attention to Emily's theatrics.

Many of them blamed her father's controlling nature and how he ensured no one was suitable to be with Emily, the reason for her miserable situation.

Mr. Grierson made Emily think he was always the only one she could rely on. But with his death, Emily experienced a huge void in her heart. The only man she truly loved and came to rely on since little had left her all alone in the world.

For these reasons, Emily's sickness worsened. After a while, she cut her hair short to appear like a girl. 

The narration then shifts to the subsequent summer when a construction company comes to town to pave the sidewalks. The company was under the control and supervision of Homer Barron, a Northerner (a New York Yankee)! Soon after his arrival, Homer became popular among the town folks. 

After some time, Homer is also seen taking Emily on buggy outings on Sunday afternoons. Witnessing Emily being happy with Homer, the town folks began uttering phrases like 'Poor Emily' and making assumptions that someone like Emily Grierson would not be seriously interested in a Yankee like Barron.

Some even whispered that Emily seems to have forgotten her Grierson family honor and societal status by being with a man who's clearly beneath her. 

Of course, Emily (being unphased) by the situation continues her affair with Homer. But her reputation is further compromised when she goes to a drug store to buy Arsenic (otherwise known as a powerful poison). Nevertheless, the law required her to show how she intended to use the Arsenic. Unfortunately, Emily has no proper explanation. So, when the package arrived, it was categorized as 'for rats.'

(Section IV)

The fourth section explains how the town folks became suspicious about Emily planning to end her life. Furthermore, people also started talking about Emily's illicit affair with Homer. Some even believed she had already married Barron. 

Due to this, the angry women of the town requested the Baptist minister to have a word with Emily. However, what happened after his visit remained unknown to anyone. The Minister refused to say anything about what happened after his visit and stated he would never want to return. 

After witnessing this baffling phenomenon, the Minister's wife wrote a letter to Emily's two cousins residing in Alabama. Upon receiving this, Emily's cousins arrive for an extended stay. Of course, as Emily had bought a silver toilet set with Homer's initials, the town folks were certain they had married. 

Furthermore, Barron's suspicious absence from town reinforced town folks' beliefs that Emily plans to run away to the north without letting any of her relatives know about it. 

Once her cousins left after an extended stay with Emily, one evening, Homer Barron goes to Emily's house. However, afterward, he was never seen again. 

After that, the narration reveals that Emily remains holed up inside her house for a long time. Occasionally, Emily was seen; only this time, she looked completely different. She had grey hair and was obese. In rare instances, Emily would impart China painting lessons from her entrance. But soon, she gave it up too!

This narration shows us that time flew and most town folks grew up. But Emily continued to live as a recluse. Her loyal servant Tobe was the only one to accompany her. Emily refused to accept the tax bills and even sealed access to the topmost floor of her residence. Nothing is heard from her except for her occasional sight from the window. Except for the servant, no one entered or exited the house. 

We learn Emily became 74 and was near the end of her final chapter of a rather unfulfilling life. In other words, we come to a full circle with the story's opening scene.


The story's final scene narrates the after events of Emily's death. Her body is removed from her residence and laid out in the open for all the town folks to see. Afterward, the town folks venture into her residence and eventually to the sealed door in the room upstairs. 

The sealed room was her bedroom which had not been opened for 40 years. The town folks break it down, and what they found was quite surprising. It appeared that the content of the room hadn’t been touched or moved in a long time.

The wedding items and garments were spread out. With that, the town folks also found a corpse on the bed. The body had reached a state of advanced decay and was surrounded by dust. But based on the findings on the body and the situation, it was presumed that the dead body was of Homer Barron. 

If all this wasn't startling enough, the town folks also noticed that next to the corpse was a pillow with a head indentation that had long grey strands of hair – much like Emily's. 

This led the town folks to believe that Emily may have poisoned Homer Barron, kept his body, and all these years habitually lay next to it in bed to overcome her loneliness and companionship needs.

A Rose for Emily - Analysis

To get a better grasp of ‘A Rose for Emily, this summary will help you understand the storyline and the central meaning. 

That said, to help to craft quality and well-explanatory research papers, here's further analyzing 'A Rose for Emily Analysis.'

William Faulkner's masterpiece, 'A Rose for Emily,' comprises only a few characters, each with specific and limited roles. Moreover, the story doesn't adhere to any chronological order in its narration. There is always a constant shift in the narrator's focus, thus leaving the readers guessing the next course of events. 

We focus on the central meaning of the short story. Per the narration, Miss Emily Grierson is the story's protagonist. The starting scene portrays Miss Emily as an obese older woman in her 70s. Her existence presents a classic example of the injustices of society and her stubbornness not to change with time.

Emily's father, Mr. Grierson, comes across as a Southerner desperately trying to hold on to his family's wealth, pride, and respect post-World War I. He considers the entire town his property and doesn't allow anyone to come near her daughter. 

Through this situation, the author explains that despite slavery being renounced, previous slave masters still enjoyed some undeserving advantages. 

Jefferson Town, where all events unfold, is also a character in itself. Their unceasing fear, attitudes, and opinions about Emily and the Grierson remain intact throughout the story. The story's first section reveals many town folks visiting Emily's funeral and sharing different opinions about the situation. 

In their minds, Emily is simply a broken, confused, and sick child who had to survive all alone due to her father's dominance. In many ways, it reveals a picture of women in that society who had to live in the shadow of their parents and family beliefs and not have the freedom to decide things for themselves.

The title of the short story A Rose for Emily also holds a deeper meaning. Despite Emily's hardships, heartaches, and atrocities, the author crafts this title as a remembrance or tribute to her character and resolve- much like a gentleman presents a red rose to his fond lady. 

The whole town considered her and her ways of life to be bizarre. They even judged her when she fell in love with Homer. However, later on, when they all visited the Grierson residence to remove Emily's dead body, they're all shell-shocked after finding that Emily killed Homer and kept his rotten corpse locked away in her upper bedroom for 40 years. 

They were also surprised after finding grey hair strands on a pillow beside Homer's body. Witnessing this, they sympathized with Emily becoming so mentally ill that she lay habitually beside Homer's corpse. 

Furthermore, Faulkner also points out that in the present world, some people often resort to unacceptable things to change the past, while others do all they can to avoid unpleasantries. 

Faulkner segregates his characters into 2 types – those wanting to avoid Emily (like Colonel Sartoris, Judge Stevens, and the pharmacist) and those seeking excuses to sympathize with her due to her miserable existence. 

Left with no time to read the whole story, yet need a quality research paper?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1. What are the main symbolic representations in A Rose for Emily?

In the literary work “A Rose for Emily”, the writer uses the symbolic representations of – the rose, ticking watch, Emily's father, Emily's hair, and the color black.Of course, the main symbolism that the writer uses is 'The Rose,' which depicts the idea of love and affection.

Q.2. How does the writer depict Irony in A Rose for Emily?

The theme of irony is depicted when –

  • Colonel Sartoris assures Emily's family that they won't have to pay taxes if they loan the town money. 
  • Another instance is when Emily reveals to the new Mayor to meet Colonel Sartoris (who unfortunately had been dead for a decade)regarding taxes. 

In both scenes, both parties don’t intend or believe what they say. Contact us immediately if you need help depicting irony in 'A Rose for Emilyin your research paper.

Q.3. What does the chief character 'Emily' embody in 'A Rose for Emily'?

The chief character – 'Emily Grierson' embodies the endeavors of Old South in resisting the charges resulting from the reconstruction.

If your research paper pertains to this topic coverage – opt for our help and craft a high-scoring paper in no time. 

Q.4. What Are Interesting Research Topics on 'A Rose for Emily'?

Some fascinating research topics on 'A Rose for Emily' entail as follows –

  • Write a research paper focusing on the use of Symbolism in A Rose for Emily
  • Craft a research paper in context to the focal theme of A Rose for Emily
  • Write a Summary of 'A Rose for Emily'?
  • How does Faulkner depict the character of Emily?
  • State the importance of the title in A Rose for Emily
  • Compile a detailed research paper on the various conflicts seen in A Rose for Emily

Q.5. For What Reason Does Emily Keep Her Father's Corpse?

After the death of Emily's father, Emily kept his corpse in her room because she didn't want to get go of the only person she had ever loved. She did not accept his death, so she kept his body to love him even after death. 

If you need help with A Rose for Emily Analysis for your research paper, hire our  essay experts to assist you.

Q.6. What Led to Emily Betraying Her Father?

Emily betrayed her father because she was opposed to modernizing. Another reason is that she falls for a day laborer and a Northerner whom the town folks thought was beneath Emily's stature.Moreover, some even believe she betrayed her father and family status as he left her feeling alone without a husband. 

Q.7. Who Did Emily Fall in Love With?

Emily fell in love with Homer Barron. The two seemed tight and habitually went on buggy rides on Sunday afternoons. The entire town thought the two would marry and move to New York. If you wish to elaborate more on this context – allow us to lend you our helping hand.

Q.8. How Old Was Emily When She Died?

Per the story's narration, Emily Grierson was 74 years old when she passed away. She lived as a recluse and harbored a secret that eventually gets revealed in the ending scene.If you must compile a research paper on the story's final scene, take our help today. 

Q.9. What's the central message from A Rose for Emily?

A Rose for Emily presents two main ethical messages. One is the risks one takes wearing rose-colored shades and hence can't see the world. The other is finding the proper balance between the past generation and the modern ideas of the new generation.If you must write A Rose for Emily Summary –  hire a writer today!

Q.10. How Does A Rose for Emily End?

The ending is both macabre and haunting. Emily passes away in her 70s in the company of the only servant who's been around for decades. During her death, Emily becomes obese, has grey hair, and disappointments in her eyes.

If you want to craft a research paper on the topic – get in touch immediately.

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Zara William is one of the brilliant minds behind the archive of blog at Her content educates, inspires, and entertains. Explore the world of writing and discover how words can shape thoughts and transform lives!

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