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Major Reasons Which Caused the Decay of Miss Emily | William Faulkner

Any person in our society be affected by foreign ideas but in different ways. Some people ignore the opinions of the people around them while others have an unusual reaction which can lead to distraction. It is known that sometimes the society we live in can not only change the life of this or that person but even ruin it if a person is weak minded. The short story A Rose for Emily written by the famous American writer William Faulkner is considered to be a psychological story as it shows the decay of a person done under the influence of the society.

My goal in this essay is to discuss the main character’s life and to represents the major reasons which caused the decay of Miss Emily. As it is an argumentative research paper, the opinions of the critics will also be represented.

Miss Emily Grierson is a main character in the short story A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner. The author tried to show the readers not only her life, the changes which took place in her life, her behavior, her relations but also he tried to prove the fact that psychological influence of the people who lived around Emily had an enormous impact on her sanity. (Clements 12)

The Role of the Narrator in the Story

The story is told by one of the townsmen who knows all the details of Miss Emily’s life. It is clear that he is practically of the same age with her. The narrator whose name remains unknown represents his own point of view concerning the fate of this woman and, of course, it affect the reader’s understanding of the plot to a great extent.

I think that the fact that the narrator starts his story with Miss Emily’s death plays an important role in the whole understanding of the plot. The reader realizes that the main character was not an ordinary woman: “When Miss Emily Greison died, our whole town went to her funeral…” (Faulkner 12)

The men call her “a fallen monument” because when she was alive she “had been a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town”. (Faulkner 13)

Everybody knew her life story but nobody could change anything. The narrator’s style is based on the principle to strike horror in the reader as he starts his story with information concerning Miss Emily’s death and finishes his story telling about the horror of Miss Emily’s secret.

Emily’s Relation’s with her Father

Miss Emily’s father had an enormous influence on the life of his daughter. According to the narrator’s words, he protected the young girl all his life, and only after his death Miss Emily has got some freedom. It is known that Miss Emily’s family was a respected one in the city. They lived on one of the best streets of Jefferson City, they had a beautiful house. Unfortunately, Miss Emily could not marry when she was young and beautiful as her father was too strict and nobody dared to make court to her. (Morton 41)

I think that she loved his father and at the same time she was afraid of him. However, when he died Miss Emily’s behavior was rather odd as for about three days after his death she asserted that her father was not dead. She even did not let the doctors “dispose the body” and only when they wanted to use the law she broke down and let them bury her father’s body.(Faulkner 14)

Miss Emily’s Relationships with Homer Barron

It is known that the only love in the life of Miss Emily was Homer Barron, a young Yankee man who worked as a construction foreman in the city. He was “a big, dark, ready man with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face”. (Faulkner 14)

According to the words of the narrator Miss Emily and Homer Barron had scandalous relations because the young man was not going to marry her. However, he spent a lot of time with Miss Emily who was happy with him. (Morton 37)

One of the most important things is that their relations were condemned by the ladies of the city who thought that “even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige” (Faulkner 15)

Some old ladies considered that “it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people”. (Faulkner 16)

I think that Miss Emily was influenced by the society which did not want her to be happy with that young man and tried to convince her to leave him alone. They not only asked the Baptist Minister to have a talk with Emily but also they called her relatives who lived in Alabama to explain Miss Emily her bad behavior. When Miss Emily realized that Homer Barron would not marry her she decided to poison him. It is known that she kept the corpse of that young man in her bedroom for many years. It proves the fact that she had gone mad.(Morton 35)

The Role of Colonel Sartoris in Miss Emily’s Life

Colonel Sartoris also played an important role in the life of Emily. He was one of those who helped Miss Emily after the death of her father when she was left without money and he “remitted her taxes”. He invented a tale that Miss Emily’s father loaned a large sum of money to the town. Colonel Sartoris, a former mayor of the city was a representative of the old generation that is why he respected Miss Emily’s father and his family.

The Role of Toby in Miss Emily’s Life

Toby, a true servant of the Grierson family was the only man who helped Emily to survive in her big house. He went shopping and cooked for her. He cared for her and did not betray her when she stayed alone. Of course, he knew about the murder and he knew that the corpse of Hommer Barron was lying in the bedroom. He also knew that Miss Emily had gone mad but he kept silence. It is known that after the death of Miss Emily he “walked out the back door and never returned”. (Faulkner 16)

I think that Toby was a true friend when he served Miss Emily so devotedly, but at the same time his fault was in the fact that he did not tell the townsmen about the murder. Miss Emily was insane and she needed treatment in the hospital. Toby ignored that fact. (Morton 32)


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the main character of the short story Miss Emily Grierson was a lonely woman who lived in isolation from the outer world. He was influenced by the opinion of the townsmen who were against her lifestyle. Although she managed to live 74 years, she was always alone. Her sanity is connected with her decay. As the story was told by one of the people who lived in the city next to Emily, it proves the fact that the society has broken the life of Emily completely. Of course, Emily’s father and the relatives from Alabama also influenced Emily’s behavior but her lover Hommer Barron became the victim in this situation. Emily could not cope with all the psychological pressure which was put by the people around her. She has got mad.

The author shows three different generations in his story: Emily’s father generation that helped Emily to cope with the death of her father exempting her from the taxes, Emily’s generation that did not help the young girl to start a new life blaming her in codding behavior and the new generation which consisted of the children of Miss Emily’s contemporaries who tried to made her pay the taxes and also did not take care of her life.

Works Cited

Clements, A. Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily. Columbus: Merril Publishing Company. 1990. Print.
Faulkner, W. The Collected Stories of William Faulkner. Vintage: New York. 1997. Print.
Morton, C. A Rose for Emily: Oral Plot, Typographic Story. A Critical Journal of popular Narrative. 2005. Print.