A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner

 

 

 

About the Author

William Faulkner(1897-1962), who came from an old southern family, grew up in Oxford, Mississippi. He joined the Canadian, and later the British, Royal Air Force during the First World War, studied for a while at the University of Mississippi, and temporarily worked for a New York bookstore and a New Orleans newspaper. Except for some trips to Europe and Asia, and a few brief stays in Hollywood as a scriptwriter, he worked on his novels and short stories on a farm in Oxford.

 

In an attempt to create a saga of his own, Faulkner has invented a host of characters typical of the historical growth and subsequent decadence of the South. The human drama in Faulkner's novels and short stories is built on the model of the actual, historical drama extending over almost a century and a half. Each story and each novel contributes to the construction of a whole, which is the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County and its inhabitants. Their theme is the decay of the old South, as represented for example by Sartoris, and the emergence of ruthless and brash newcomers. Colonel Sartoris, who plays a small but important role in A Rose for Emily, is also a major character in the novel Flags in the Dust. Faulkner based part of the character of Emily on a cousin, Mary Louise Neilson, who had married a Yankee street paver named Jack Barron. More importantly, the character of Miss Emily is the town eccentric. Faulkner certainly understood eccentricity, having made it a lifelong practice. For example, when he was in his twenties taking language classes at the University of Mississippi, he was known as "Count No Count" for what many considered to be an aloof, arrogant, and foppish manner. Like Emily, Faulkner was often frowned upon in his own hometown. He became a pariah in Oxford in the fifties when he spoke out publicly against racism and segregation.

 

Faulkner published almost twenty novels, several volumes of short fiction, and two volumes of poetry. He wrote many screenplays, essays, and articles for magazines and newspapers. He won two Pulitzer Prizes, a National Book Award, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949.

 

About the Story

Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily was his first story to be published in a major magazine in 1930. A slightly revised version was published in two collections of his short fiction, These 13 (1931) and Collected Stories (1950). It has been published in dozens of anthologies as well.

 

A Rose for Emily is the story of an eccentric spinster, Emily Grierson. An unnamed narrator details the strange circumstances of Emily’s life and her odd relationships with her father, her lover, and the town of Jefferson, and the horrible secret she hides. The story’s subtle complexities continue to inspire critics while casual readers find it one of Faulkner’s most accessible works. The gruesome ending contributes greatly to the popularity of the story.

 

Faulkner often set his short stories and novels in the fictional kingdom of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. A Rose for Emily" takes place in Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha. Jefferson is a critical setting in much of Faulkner’s fiction. The character of Colonel Sartoris plays a role in the story; he is also an important character in the history of Yoknapatawpha. However, A Rose for Emily is a story that stands by itself. Faulkner himself modestly referred to it as a "ghost story," but many critics recognize it as an extraordinarily versatile work. A Rose for Emily’’ has sometimes been read as a Gothic horror tale, a study in abnormal psychology, an allegory of the relations between North and South, a meditation on the nature of time, and as a tragedy with Emily as a sort of tragic heroine.

 

Questions

Questions Section I

1. What hints are given in Section I that "A Rose for Emily" takes place in the South?

2. What is the name of Miss Emily’s manservant?

3. Why does the Board of Aldermen send a delegation to Miss Emily’s house?

4. Whose portrait sits on an easel by Miss Emily’s fireplace, and what material was used to make it?

5. What "colour" is Miss Emily’s house?

 

Questions Section II

1. Why doesn’t Judge Stevens want to confront Miss Emily about "the smell"?

2. What did Miss Emily inherit from her father?

3. What were the minister and the doctor trying to convince Miss Emily of doing after her father’s death?

4. How many years pass between "the smell" in Section II and the deputation in Section I that visits Miss Emily about her taxes?

5. What do town members finally do about "the smell"?

 

Questions Section III

1. What does the term "noblesse oblige" mean?

2. What events cause some of the townspeople to say "Poor Emily"?

3. Why is Homer Barron in town?

4. What does Miss Emily purchase from the druggist?

5. What does Miss Emily tell the druggist the poison is to be used for?

 

Questions Section IV

1. Why did the Baptist minister call on Miss Emily?

2. What did Miss Emily buy from the town jeweller?

3. About how many years pass between the time of Homer Barron’s disappearance and Miss Emily’s death?

4. What change took place in Miss Emily’s relationship with the town for a period of several years when Miss Emily was in her forties?

5. Were the new generation of town leaders able to collect taxes from Miss Emily?

 

Questions Section V

1. What happens to Tobe after Miss Emily’s death?

2. What are some of the older men wearing at Miss Emily’s funeral?

3. Which room do the townspeople open once Miss Emily is "decently in the ground…"?

4. What kinds of objects are found in the room once it is opened?

5. What is found on the pillow next to the skeleton?

 

Further Questions

1. Give a description of three characters that are mentioned in A Rose for Emily.

2. Pick out five phrases, which you think are especially important to the story. Briefly describe why you chose each one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Short Stories