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Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily".


The spinster Emily Grierson dies. The whole town attends her funeral. Women are curious to see Emily's house. This is described as decaying, an eyesore among eyesores, and spreading a horrible smell.

A flashback returning to Emily's history. Emily is a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town. Colonel Sartoris, the mayor, makes out a story of her father's loan to the town which is now compensated by Emily's paying no taxes. A new generation succeeds to the mayor post and Emily is sent a tax notice. She does not pay any attention to it. The Board of Aldermen is established and sent to Miss Emily's house. A black servant ushers them to the house smelling of dust and disuse. Miss Emily, a small, fat woman in black, refuses the fact of Colonel Sartoris's death almost 10 years ago and claims she has no taxes in Jefferson. The board is defeated in the same way as she defeated their fathers 30 years ago.

It was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart, whom she believed to marry her, deserted her. The Board of Aldermen, esp. Judge Stevens, decide they cannot tell a lady she smells bad. Like burglars they creep about the house in the night and sprinkle lime there. The smell goes away for some time.

In this time people start feeling sorry for Emily. They do not think her crazy yet. People think that the Griersons hold themselves too high for what they really are. Being left alone after her father's death, and a pauper, Emily becomes humanized. Several days after her father's death she claims that he is not dead and refuses to overhand his body. Finally she breaks down and is sick for a long time. People remember how her father has driven away many young men and understand she clings to the one who robbed her.

She goes out seldom since her father is dead. When she lets herself to be seen, she has a sort of tragic and serene aspect. Pavements are built in the town and Homer Barron, a Yankee (i.e. Northerner), a day labourer, starts seeing Emily. People begin to whisper "poor Emily" as they perceive that the man is really lower than Emily. Emily wants to buy arsenic. Though she refuses to say how she wants to use it, she is sold the poison. People say she will kill herself. But she does not. Then they say she will marry Homer Barron: she buys man's clothes and a silver man's toilet with the letters H.B. Homer is gone for a while, then he is seen entering the house one evening.

Except for a period of 6 or 7 years, when she was giving china-painting lessons, Emily ceases to go out of her house and is rarely seen. Only sometimes a glance of her can be caught in the window. The town can only watch Emily's black servant growing greyer and older. After her death, the servant leaves the house and is never seen again.

The conclusion returns to the burial: The upper floor of the house has been obviously closed in the last years. There is also one room above stairs which no one had seen in 40 years. The room was opened. It was furnished as for a bridal. There were the men's things which Emily bought and there was the man himself, lying in the bed, in the long sleep that outlasts love. The second pillow is the indentation of a head. An iron-gray hair, the same colour Emily had, is collected from it.



- a psychological experimental short story

- throughout the plot the reader is given bits of information which only at the very end fit into their right places in the puzzle of Emily's life

- narrator: at first a neutral narrator gradually turns to represent the opinion of the town, using phrases "we said", "we thought" etc.

- themes: fear of losing one 's love, desire to preserve love so that it would stay forever, authoritative parental love and its results

- motifs: being a murderer (Emily very probably fed her lover arsenic) and to a certain extend an innocent victim of one's family heritage


  • Author

    Faulkner, William. (1897 - 1962).
  • Full Title

    "A Rose for Emily".
  • First Published

    In: These 13. NY: Cape & Smith, 1931.
  • Form

    Short story.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily". (1931). In: The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym et al. NY: Norton, 1989.


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