Clinging to the Past in Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily
The end of the American Civil War also signified the end of the Old South’s era of greatness. The south is depicted in many stories of Faulkner as a region where “the reality and myth are difficult to separate”(Unger 54). Many southern people refused to accept that their conditions had changed, even though they had bitterly realized that the old days were gone. They kept and cherished the precious memories, and in a fatal and pathetic attempt to maintain the glory of the South people tend to cling to old values, customs, and the faded, but glorified representatives of the past. Miss Emily was one of those selected representatives. The people in the southern small-town, where the story takes place, put her on a throne instead of throwing her in jail where she actually belonged. The folks in town, unconsciously manipulated by their strong nostalgia, became the accomplices of the obscene and insane Miss Emily.
Faulkner tells the story in first form plural, where the narrators represent the folks in town, which gives a feeling of that this description is the general perception. One immediately gets involved in the story since they first retell what actually happened and then add their own interpretations and assumptions. The double perspective one gets invites to draw one’s own conclusions from a more objective point of view, which mine hopefully is!
Miss Emily was brought into the spotlight the same moment as her father died. Being the last remaining person from the high ranking Grierson family in town, she became the new ambassador of the old days. The people welcomed her with open arms, without actually knowing anything more about her than her admirable name. Her father’s death also meant that Miss Emily’s unrevealed secret was brought into the grave. It is well known that insanity is a hereditary disposition, and Miss Emily’s great-aunt, lady Wyatt, had “gone absolutely crazy”(80) before she passed away a couple of years earlier. Emily’s father had since then dissociated from that branch of the family, as if to run away from a dishonorable influence. I believe that he was aware of her condition, and he therefore had kept her from social life and driven away the long road of suitors to prevent her from causing another scandal, which could spot his and his family’s remaining reputation.