The short story “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner depicts the underrepresentation of women in a small-town Jefferson where everyone respects Emily Grierson due to her aristocratic origin and disrespect her behind her back. The men of the town think that a woman like Emily with high-status should not marry a man like Homer who belongs to a northern society having low-status in the community. Townspeople think that the women can be of high-status yet cannot be above the men. This shows the underrepresentation of women in the community where men do not promote “equality” but “racism”. Even the narrator calls Emily a “fallen monument” because Emily does not own the wealth of aristocrats yet keeps the pride like an aristocrat. The people of the town contempt Emily calling her smelly and sprinkles the lemons in her home even when Judge denies the townsmen suing her for being smelly and affecting the streets with bad odor. The men of the town do not respect a woman’s privacy. I argue that the women in the story are underrepresented whereas the race is overrepresented. This becomes clear when Colonel Sartoris says that negro women should wear an apron before coming to the streets. The narrator also seems biased as he does not talk directly about Emily’s black manservant. Townspeople created never recognized Emily as their own and created many difficulties in the path of her life.
In the short story “A Rose for Emily”, the narrator seems partial when he says the women of the town go to Emily’s funeral just out of curiosity whereas, men go to her funeral for deference. This seems that the narrator is creating a bad image of townswomen in the reader’s eyes. He is putting the women on the negative pole and the men on the positive pole. The narrator does not disclose their gender but they seem male from his unfair nature towards women of the town. When villagers find Homer’s skeleton in Emily’s house, the narrative “we” suddenly changes to “they” (Curry). The narrator gives the impression of a racist as he uses the word “niggers” for Tobe, he kinds of developing an understanding of partiality towards race (Faulkner 1954:491) (Stralen). The “negro” meet the ladies and once they come in, he goes out of the house; nobody stops him because of his African- American identity. More so, the narrator let him leave knowing that he might have significant information about Homer’s death. All of these events lead to the narrator’s biased nature towards men.
The village fosters undermine the women representation in the village. The women of the town have been judged from their race, color and looks by all the people of her town. People call Emily “bloated” and “fat” (Faulkner 1). Emily does not allow anyone to enter her home except her servant, Tobe. She becomes isolated from everyone. The cessation of entering her home continues from the days she stopped giving painting classes to her students several years ago. After Homer’s disappearance, she closes the top floor of her house. Once a deputation goes to her house to tell her that she has to pay taxes her father was owing. She does not let anyone in and asks them to send Colonel Sartoris (Burg, Boyle, et al. 379). The reason for sending them to Colonel because Colonel used to tell the townspeople that they all owe money to Emily’s father. So, they will pay him back by remitting Emily’s taxes and letting her retain her pride. The men of her society do shameless act by interrupting Emily’s privacy and personal space and entering her house. Few men from the town go to the judge and ask him to charge Emily for being smelly where judge refuses this charge against Emily. They still do not listen to the judge and four of them go to Emily’s house and start sprinkling lemons in her house. This whole event reflects the disrespectful behavior of townsmen towards Emily. Furthermore, the men of the town promote race discrimination even after the end of the war. Colonel Sartoris says “no negro woman should appear on streets”: this represents the racial tension in the town by making them feel inferior and categorize them as lower class. People with color were thought to be inferior to wealthy people (Faulkner 1). This is why people did not like Emily’s manservant who was black- colored. They think that after Emily is “deserted” by Homer, her manservant’s poor housekeeping is the reason that Emily’s house has terrible stench (Faulkner 5).
People may regard Emily for her aristocratic background but on her back, they come down on her. Emily’s father rejected many men for his daughter saying that they were “not good enough” for his daughter (Faulkner 2). So, Emily never got love from any man other than his father. When she starts dating Homer Barron, a northern man, and a Yankee, she has been judged as everyone starts criticizing their relationship calling her “poor Emily” and “pathetic ride” that Emily took with her lover (Faulkner 5). People disagree with them relationship especially the old men who did not want Emily to marry Homer as he remarked that he is a homosexual and “not a marrying man” (Faulkner 5). On top of that, townspeople show themselves narrow-minded because of their objection on the marriage of Emily and Homer due to their southern and northern origin respectively. People prove that their mind still lives in an old era where a woman can be of high-status but cannot be above a man.
Moreover, the minister’s wife calls on Emily’s cousins to ask Emily not to continue her affair with Homer, Emily does not stop. Yet, Homer visits Emily’s house and Emily purchases present for him: ‘a man’s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B. on each piece’ (Faulkner 5) and ‘a complete outfit of men’s clothing, including a nightshirt’ (Faulkner 5). After three days, Homer starts visiting Emily again. People believe that Homer will definitely marry Emily. But later that day, nobody sees Homer visiting Emily ever again. So, everybody thinks that Homer has deserted Emily. They do not think that Emily could have left him, too. This shows that townspeople always reflect the idea of men being superior to women as only men have the right to abandon women. People never treated Emily like they treat their own people; they always treated her superior to them, because of her southern origin, in front of her. She might need people to be her friends but nobody understood her. This is why she isolates herself from everyone in the village.
At her funeral, the people of the town Jefferson get to go inside her house. That day, they found out the skeleton of Homer Barron laying on the bed beside “a long grey strand of hair” (Burg, Boyle et al. 379). People think that Emily has killed Homer because she bought arsenic before Homer’s disappearance from the town. She goes to the pharmacy and asked the pharmacist for arsenic where at first, he refuses to give her arsenic without knowing the reason of purchasing it but then he gives it to her and writes “for rats” on the box (Faulkner 250). Nobody knows the reason for Homer’s death yet everyone blames Emily for poisoning him and killing him. People did not like her for her care-free and independent nature. Emily lived life according to her own term: “She did not let anyone write on her. She was like a white page of a book. Nobody could properly understand her. Neither Faulkner nor the narrator could be able to capture Emily’s life in their story, properly (Curry). The title “A Rose for Emily” feels kind of pseudo to me as the people who never showed any kind of support to Emily are standing beside her corpse whereas the narrator is feeling sad and paying her respect on her death by giving a pseudo rose to her in the story only. People who made her life like the thorns are giving her a rose. This shows the deceptive behavior of the characters of the story.
In conclusion, it is clear that all the villagers including the narrator underrepresent the women. Nobody in the town promotes “equality”, everyone encourages “racism” and “genderism”. The narrator calling himself “we” shows his ambiguous and pseudo behavior. Everyone judges Emily for her looks and her self-dependent behavior. The townsmen disagree with Emily’s intimate relationship with her boyfriend, Homer. Nobody wants them to get marries as Emily is from an aristocratic background and Homer is just a Yankee and a laborer. People try to break their relationship. When Homer vanishes, the narrator describes that Homer abandons Emily without knowing the facts which leave the reader thinking of the idea of inequality; this idea of inequality reflects that only men can leave women as they are inferior to men. People of the town created several difficulties in Emily’s life due to the inequality factor. Everybody kept on respecting her in front of her; maybe Emily did not need respect, she needed companionship in the townspeople. If people could have treated her like their own, her life could be like a rose and not the thorns. This represents the title of the story “A Rose for Emily” is pseudo due to the town’s people who never stood with Emily came to her funeral where the narrator of the story pays his last respects to Emily by giving an imaginary rose to her.
Besides, the idea of race has been highlighted in several events. The narrator behaves like a racist, too, when he does not stop Tobe to leave the house at Emily’s funeral. Being the narrator of the story, he should have stopped Tobe as he may lead the law to the shreds of evidence of Homer’s death but he did not stop Emily’s manservant because of his race. The townspeople thought Tobe to be unimportant and not knowledgeable because of him being African-American. People judge Emily and her manservant without reaching to the roots of facts. Everyone curses Tobe for Emily’s house’s bad stench. The narrator narrating this story does not bother to get to the bottom of this mystery. He remains in dark, because of his racist behavior towards Tobe, while keeping his readers in dark as well. The townspeople displayed that a woman can have the aristocratic origin and can be of a high-status than her partner, but people would always bring her down and will not accept a woman to be above a man. The inequality factor of people overpowers the feelings of Emily Grierson in this story and isolate her from her lover, Homer Barron.
- Burg, Jennifer, et al. “Using Constraint Logic Programming to Analyze the Chronology in ‘A Rose for Emily.’” Computers and the Humanities, vol. 34, no. 4, 2000, pp. 377–392. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30204830.
- Curry, Renee R. ‘Gender and authorial limitation in Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily.’ (Special Issue: William Faulkner).’ The Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 3, 1994, p. 391+. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A15939701/LitRC?u=vanc85972&sid=LitRC&xid=7dbeaf33. Accessed 1 Aug. 2019.
- Faulkner, William. ‘A Rose for Emily’. Forum, 1930.
- Faulkner, William ‘A Rose for Emily’. In: The Faulkner Reader. Random House. New York. 1954.
- van Stralen H, Iken AM. The Coveted Monument. PsyArt. January 2013:4. https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.langara.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=90545416&site=eds-live&scope=site. Accessed August 1, 2019.