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A Rose for Emily

Author: Faulkner, William

Genre: Southern Gothic

Year: 1930

Characters: Miss Emily Grierson, Homer Barron


A Rose for Emily -William Faulkner

Rose for Emily" is a remarkable story that is widely read and debated. Faulkner's use of symbolism and his lack of a standard chronology create a story that has many interpretations among its readers. First published in the April 1930 Saturday Evening Post.

The story, told in five sections, opens in section one with an unnamed narrator describing the funeral of Miss Emily Grierson. He notes that while the men attend the funeral out of obligation, the women go primarily because no one has been inside Emily's house for years. The narrator describes what was once a grand house "set on what had once been our most select street." Emily's origins are aristocratic, but both her house and the neighborhood it is in have deteriorated. The narrator notes that, prior to her death, Miss Emily Grierson, an aristocratic woman deeply admired by a community that places her on a pedestal and sees her as "a tradition, a duty" — or, as the unnamed narrator describes her, "a fallen monument." In contrast to the community's view, we realize eventually that Miss Emily is a woman who not only poisons and kills her lover, Homer Barron, but she keeps his rotting corpse in her bedroom and sleeps next to it for many years. The ending of the story emphasizes the length of time Miss Emily must have slept with her dead lover: long enough for the townspeople to find "a long strand of iron-gray hair" lying on the pillow next to "what was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt" and displaying a "profound and fleshless grin."

Faulkner's most famous, most popular, and most anthologized short story, "A Rose for Emily" evokes the terms Southern gothic and grotesque, two types of literature in which the general tone is one of gloom, terror, and understated violence. The story is Faulkner's best example of these forms because it contains unimaginably dark images: a decaying mansion, a corpse, a murder, a mysterious servant who disappears, and, most horrible of all, necrophilia — an erotic or sexual attraction to corpses. Faulkner is now regarded by most critics as one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century in 1929, many American critics did not immediately recognize Faulkner as a groundbreaking writer. As is often the case with many challenging American authors, Faulkner was identified as a unique American voice in Europe long before he gained respect at home.


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