An Intricate Web: An Analysis of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”

“An Intricate Web”: An Analysis of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”

By  Trudy A. Martinez 

In the story “A Rose for Emily” written by William Faulkner, Faulkner establishes a historical morality of a southern heritage, a pattern, intricately woven within the story. The pattern engulfs Emily Grierson, the main character, a descendant of an old, southern, social elite family, who is bred accustom to the best of everything; she demands the rights of her heritage. Emily acts above reproach, above change, determining to maintain her image.

Faulkner builds on the intricate web through his reference to change that encompasses a southern town and its inhabitants following the Civil War. As progress encroaches upon a once elite route in a small community, the route becomes an intermingling eyesore of decaying mansions and the ugliness of progression within a society.

The narrator portrays the significance of an illusion of decay and the ugliness of a changing time and of changing values by using the reference to we rather than to I. By resorting to this technique, Faulkner manages to camouflage the accountability and neutralizes the judgment for the putrefaction of the town, its inhabitants, and the abandonment of a once elegant southern heritage.

The Prospective of William Faulkner on “A Rose for Emily” (Meyer 54-55) acknowledges the judgment has a neutralizing theme when Faulkner answers the question: “.could this story…be…classified as a criticism of the times?” (Meyer 55). Faulkner said, “The writer uses the environment–what he knows…It was not a conflict between the North and South so much as between…God and Satan”(Meyer 55).

At the end Civil War, the ideology of industrialization forces the south to change and conform. Industrial progression and the freeing of the salves is seen as a means of bettering the majority of the people or at least giving them hope for a better future through the introduction of industrialization. Instead, the tradition, heritage, and values of the typical southerner fade, decays, and gives way to a diabolic aggressive progression.

Regardless of what happens to the typical southerner, to Emily the War is not over; she fights on; she maintains her heritage; she avoids taxation gracefully, elegantly even. Emily is not going to change! She is above this utter nonsense; “Colonel Sartoris had explained to [her] “. Not”…even grief could…cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige“.

Emily holds her head high in the tradition of her heritage until she meets the man of her dreams, Homer Barron; but “he was not a marrying man”. Stubborn, Emily will not relinquish her traditional values to become the talk of the town. She plans and works out a solution to her problem; she sets everything straight in the eye of the gossips, while at the same time, ridding herself of a “Rat”.

Because she portrays herself well in the old traditional heritage, Emily reaps her “Rose” as she distinguishes her execution of deceit. She relinquished her values for a false image; she gives in to temptation and hides her indiscretion from the town. She accomplishes her deceitful performance with the suppleness of a woman while maintaining her stature in the old southern tradition. Emily joins the status-quo while defrauding everyone into believing she is portraying a member of a southern aristocracy who will not succumb to changes within the society.


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BA degree in English with a single subject certification 1994 I enjoy writing, art (all forms), especially drawing/multi-media , quilting, sewing, embroidery, photography (still and video), and most of all, my grandchildren and great-grand-children.

2 thoughts on “An Intricate Web: An Analysis of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily””

  1. Great to see a familiar face. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments. Our daughter is such a beautiful little spirit and we enjoy her tremendously. Hope all is well.


  2. This review has inspired me to read the book. Thanks for the introduction and btw I am very impressed that you posted a "play" on your blog.  Impressive creativity.


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