“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 was breed to be accustomed to the best of everything; she demands the rights of her heritage.  Determined to maintain her image, Emily acts above reproach, above change.  However, time changes everything.

Faulkner builds on an 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 intermingled eyesore of decaying mansions and the ugliness of progression within a society.

The narrator portrays the significance of an illusion of decay and ugliness of a changing time and value by using the reference to we rather than to I.  By resorting to this technique, Faulkner provides a camouflage of accountability and neutralizes 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 neutralized judgment 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 the diabolic aggressive progression.

Nevertheless, the War was not over, at least not for Emily; she fought on; she maintains her heritage; she avoids taxation gracefully, elegantly.  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 held 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 value to become the talk of the town.  She plans and works out a solution to the problem; she sets everything straight in the eye of the gossips while at the same time ridding herself of a “Rat”.

Because of her portrayal, Emily reaps her “Rose” for her distinguished execution of deceit.  She relinquished her values for a falsified image; she gives in to temptation and hides her indiscretion from the town.  She accomplishes her performance with the suppleness of a woman while maintaining her stature in the old southern tradition.  Emily joined the status-quo while defrauding everyone into believing she would not succumb to a changed society.