A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner


WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant–a combined gardener and cook–had seen in at least ten years.

It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores. And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.

~William Faulkner, from A Rose for Emily

RickWhat is an eccentric if not one standing just a step beyond our expectations? Emily seemed to have it all at first – position, money and prestige, but in time she drifted outside of society’s blessing by being too opaque. At some point it became impossible to distinguish cause and effect, and it seemed the more curious she became for her isolation, the more she insisted on it.

“And as soon as the old people said, “Poor Emily,” the whispering began. “Do you suppose it’s really so?” they said to one another. “Of course it is. What else could …” This behind their hands; rustling of craned silk and satin behind jalousies closed upon the sun of Sunday afternoon as the thin, swift clop-clop-clop of the matched team passed: “Poor Emily.”

She carried her head high enough—even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness.”

In this classic Southern Gothic tale, Faulkner leaves much to the reader. There are almost as many interpretations as there are readers and much of what you take from it will reflect what you brought. In a sense, that’s the heart of the tale. Growth and change come harder for some than most, but we do ourselves no favor by refusing to evolve.

Sooner or later, the past insists on being the past.

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.


faulkner_silver(1897–1962). The novels of American author William Faulkner rank among the most important books of the 20th century. For them he was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature. Faulkner wrote mostly about his hometown of Oxford, in Lafayette county, Mississippi. In his fiction the place was renamed Jefferson, in Yoknapatawpha county. The time in various stories ranges from pre–Civil War days to the early 1960s. People of all sorts—wealthy and poor, evil and good, slave and free—come into sharp focus in his writing.

“Faulkner, William,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

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Rick Wilcox

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