William Faulkner’s famed short story “A Rose for Emily” gives a vivid portrayal of a character who makes more than one bad choice in life, but fervently continues on, in a desperate attempt to give her actions and thus, her life meaning. She is a remnant of an old, by-gone era, a recluse by her own choice and a tragically misunderstood woman in love, the characteristics which make her one of the most infamous heroines in the Southern Gothic genre.
Emily Grierson is a Southern belle, a remnant of an old world which is being run over by the emergence of the new one. Exactly because she demanded respect from those she believed socially inferior to herself, their entire family “held themselves a little too high for what they really were,” and she was transformed into “a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town” (Faulkner 51, 48). Faulkner portrays her in related terms to the house she lives in, situated in a street dense with “garages and cotton gin,” where only her house is left, “lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and gasoline pumps” (Faulkner 47). Thus, refusing to be a part of the new world, and obdurately remaining in the old one, Miss Emily becomes and remains throughout her entire life “an eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner 47).
In addition, the story of Miss Emily is one of severe isolation, not only physical as she locks the front door to her house for more than ten years, but emotional as well, depicted in the actions following the loss of her beloved ones: “After her father’s death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all” (Faulkner 50). Exactly because she was taught to think herself better than everyone else, she is left without anyone to lend a sympathetic hand of help in her times of need, and thus, Miss Emily turns to isolation as her only means of solace and comfort. First, she is isolated by her family, being urged to think herself special and that “none of the young men were quite good enough” for her, and afterwards, as she loses the only safe ground she has ever had, her father, she becomes an outcast in her entire community (Faulkner 51).
In the end, it is also revealed that her willing isolation serves as a cover for the crime of murder, as the prying eyes of the town’s inhabitants rush into Miss Emily’s house after her death and find “a long strand of iron-gray hair” in the indentation on a pillow, in a bed where Miss Emily was sleeping with the murdered Homer Barron (Faulkner 59). This insinuates the fact that she was a desperate individual in a desperate state of mind as Homer was about to leave her, and as her father already died and left her, she was certain that she would at least keep Homer’s body, as she could not do the same with her father’s. These actions reveal a highly distraught character, one incapable of coping with death, loss and the refusal of what they need most, so she acts the only way she knows how, by making Homer never leave her side.
Thus, Miss Emily Grierson is portrayed as a character who does not adapt well to change, inflexibly refuses to become like everyone else, common and not special in any way, an outcast who chooses willing isolation to the town’s prying eyes and tongues, and locks herself in a macabre bridal chamber where she chooses to spend the rest of her life with the man she adores.
Faulkner, William. Selected Short Stories. New York: Modern Library, 1993. Print.