The idea of class systems has been around forever and with these classes come expectations for those within them. The short story “A Rose for Emily,” was written by William Faulkner. The main character that the story follows is Miss Emily Grierson. This story is about a woman who lives in Jefferson Mississippi during the 1930’s. Her father always protected her very closely but, after his passing she spirals out of control. The people in the town are curious of what is going on with Emily however, they never question her for many reasons. The main reason being her family’s reputation. In “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner reveals how the class system and societal expectations pressure Emily to isolate herself, lose touch with reality and eventually be discovered to have killed a man she loves.
In the south during this era, parents/guardians were very controlling of their children in hopes of maintaining a perfect imagine to society. This is shown in the text by Emily’s father when he makes it clear that he wants Emily to stay home and not get marries so that he could forever keep his “little girl” and housekeeper. Emily was always contained by her father and she maintains this herself even after his passing. This made the people in town believe that she was just a sweet and innocent lady even with all her strange behaviors. In the text the people of the town said, ‘We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.”(Faulkner 780) This shows that Emily’s father drove everyone away from her which caused her to go against what he wanted for her, but at the same time still confine herself. She chose Homer Baron, a man her father would’ve never approved of which was a shock to the townspeople. They wouldn’t have expected Emily to go against her father’s wishes like she did. This is shown in the quote, “At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.” (Faulkner 781) This is where the idea of class expectations come in. Emily chose a man from the north with a lower social status, with her coming from an upstanding family this wasn’t highly viewed by her neighbors. They all knew that in a way Emily was choosing Homer Baron just to spite her father who drove so many suitors away because they weren’t good enough for Emily. They knew what Emily was doing when choosing Homer, but they still didn’t agree with the choice which is why she may have isolated herself.
The men throughout the town were afraid of offending a woman especially one coming from a family like the Griersons’. For example, in the story they notice an awful smell coming from Miss Emily’s home, but they don’t know how to tell her without her being offended. This shows that the authorities didn’t want to offend a lady by telling her that her house stinks. Therefore, instead of asking Emily about the smell they handled it without her knowing. However, if they had inquired about the smell, they could have found the rotting body of Homer Baron much sooner. Finding Homer’s body would have helped limit the extent of Emily’s downward spiral out of sanity. If they had found the body Emily wouldn’t have continued to create the fantasy with Homer’s corpse. Another situation like this one occurred in the beginning of the story. Miss Emily had not paid her taxes, so the authorities went to her handle to the issue. They arrived at her door and her response to the accusation was ‘I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me.” (Faulkner 778) They didn’t argue with her they just let it be so, that they would not offend her. This statement from Emily also gives the reader and the townspeople a clue into Emily’s mental state because she mentioned Colonel Sartoris who had been dead for many years. This goes to show that gender roles within the class systems did more harm than good for Miss Emily. The class systems allowed her to continue her downward spiral out of sanity by isolating herself and creating a “perfect” world for herself within the four walls of that bedroom.
Emily was viewed as a sweet and reserved old lady by those in her community but, they had so many questions about her life that couldn’t be answered until her death. In the story it says, “And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron. And if Miss Emily for some time.” (Faulkner 782) It also mentions that she hadn’t left her house in ten years. With Emily not leaving her house for so long, the people in town had no idea what she was doing during this time period. Nobody inquired about why Emily disappeared, they all just stood by and observed. This didn’t help with Emily’s sanity, it was clear that she wanted to seclude herself but, nobody even tried to break down the walls she built up around her after the loss of her father. Before Emily disappeared, she went to the druggist and bought arsenic. Emily went to the druggist with the intent to buy the poison but, nobody knew what for. They assumed she was going to kill herself, but even then didn’t make any attempt intervene because it wasn’t their business. In the story it says, “The druggist makes several. They’ll kill anything up to an elephant. But what you want is-.” (Faulkner 782) This shows that the druggist did want to figure out the reason behind Emily’s purchase, but knows how rude it would be to question and accuse a woman with risk of offending her. This just further proves that the town just allowed Emily to isolate herself and lose her grip on reality by not showing any concern because they feared “offending” a woman of higher class.
Throughout the story, “A Rose for Emily” William Faulkner shows how the way Emily was viewed by the townspeople affected her touch with reality and allowed her extreme isolation. They didn’t question her strange behaviors because of her name, she came from a good family so they assumed that she couldn’t do wrong. However, if they had asked a couple questions or payed her a visit or two, they may have saved the life of Homer Baron. The analysis shows how the town automatically thought highly of Emily because she came from money and prestige. They didn’t dare accuse her of all the strange occurrences in fear of offending a lady. This goes to show that class systems and societal expectations allowed her to drift further away from reality and isolate herself.
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- Yang, Pingping. ‘A road to destruction and self-destruction: the same fate of Emily And Elly.’ Theory and Practice in Language Studies, vol. 3, no. 10, 2013, p. 1850+. Literature Resource Center, https://link-gale-com.gmclibrary.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A351082061/LitRC?u=mill30389&sid=LitRC&xid=85700121. Accessed 1 Nov. 2019.