Control of Time and Obsession with the Past

Faulkner's Writings on "A Rose for Emily"

Faulkner's writings on the book A Rose for Emily seek to depict a variety of different expectations that befall individuals who are perceived to be different, especially by reputation. Emily Grierson's story exemplifies how being unique in society can lead to various judgments that befall the person in question. The whole story further demonstrates the strangeness that humanity is made of. In one culture, there are particular ideas about death and how the dead are handled (Skinner, John 43).

Obsession with the Past

In this context, Emily's acts which are associated with death are a representation of the extent of misconceptions or myths which about death and how the dead are handled in a particular society depicted in the story had a certain route of handling matters and explaining issues mainly due high obsession with the past or due to the time concept of way of life.

First and foremost, obsession with the past is seen mostly on the protagonist Emily. Emily strongly held upon the past. She was the kind of person who always lived in the shadow of the past. From the narrator's perception, it can be summed up that Emily was indeed so afraid of changing her perception towards the past and live in the present (Vartany, Edwin 189).

It is evidenced from the reading that the house which the Grierson family lived in was a very big house. It was given the ancient decorations. For example it is described to be highly lined with the squarish frames (Vartany, Edwin 190). It was a house that was generally painted white. The author states that the house was lined with beautiful cupolas. It had well-placed spires and externally scrolled painted balconies which resembled the make of the seventieth century. The fact that Emily still loved to stay in this house explains that the society, then, had changed but opted to live like a person in the seventieth century(Vartany, Edwin 190).

Secondly, the fact that there was obsession with the past is seen from the flashback story which explains how the family of Emily was deemed to be the royals. In this flashback, it is explained that Miss Emily openly declined to pay taxes to the Jefferson's Family. It is stated that in her mind, she thought that her family was still as powerful as before. She contemptuously refused to acknowledge the presence of the Sherriff stating that she did not recognize him as a real Sherriff. She said that they did not have to pay taxes to the Jefferson since their high standards would not allow. The fact that she asked the Sherriff to talk to colonel Sartoris, who had actually died ten years before then, shows that Grierson lived in the past. She only referred to past events which show that she had not sensed the presence of the modernity in society(Vartany, Edwin 189).

Dependence on the Past

Thirdly, the narrator explains a number of outdated events which happened after the demise of her father. The author shows that Emily's father was the one who controlled her way of life. He made decisions which concerned her and was involved in all life affairs of Emily. From the narrator's point of view, it is candid that Emily had fully become dependent on her father. Her past and present would be determined by her father.

Therefore, when her father died, it is like she saw her life in the present would not be as usual. Therefore, she did not bury the body of her father and opted to put it inside the house. It is clear that she thought, that, by keeping him would still avail his presence in her life and would still be able to control her life like he used to do. The sense of time had not dawned on her. She had been controlled and had thus developed the tendency of thinking that without her father, her life would not be normal.

Perception of Women in Society

Moreover, obsession with the past is seen with how women were generally perceived. They were deemed to only possess the names, mother, daughters, or wives. This is an outdated mentality. The wholesome importance of women in society affairs had not been recognized by the society. There were no cases where women emancipation activities are described in the society. The society was only ruled by the voice of masculinity. This explains why Emily's father had the whole responsibility of choosing suitors for Emily.

All suitors that had made an attempt of looking for the Emily's father approval had been turned down. Consequently, Emily's father had died even before she had been married. The lack of women say and feminine voice in general shows that the society within this context was highly obsessed with the past (Watkins, Floyd 510). Women are also deemed to be, malicious in society. Emily is associated with some gothic acts like being the prime suspect of killing her suitor Mr. Barons.

Necrophiliac Acts and Fear

Additionally, lack of time control and obsession with the past is seen in the necrophiliac acts of Emily. Emily buys arsenic, the position which she uses to kill her Homer Baron. After killing her and his skeleton which is discovered in her secret room, it is clear that the position of the body and the nature which it was in showed that she had sexual intercourse with the body until it remained a skeleton. Sleeping and clutching to a dead body is an open indication that she was obsessed with the past.

The killing of Homer Baron can be explained as an act of fear. For example, she feared to lose her only source of comfort, Mr. Baron. She was afraid of letting him go since his earlier scandalous actions showed that he could not marry due to several reasons. She feared that he might was out of her life just like he had done in his life stories. Through his death, it would be certain that he was with her until his last breath (Vartany, Edwin 189).

Fear of the Grierson Family

The story is also set in the context where the royals of the society were feared by everyone in the society. For example, it is referred that Emily's Father had once donated a huge sum of money to the authorities. His intention was to reduce Emily's burden of paying taxes. However, with the society getting the wind of this act and the royal state of their family, they feared the Griersons (Watkins, Floyd 510). It is stated that the women in the society would only gossip and not talk in loud voices about the protagonists family affairs.

This fear is also seen during her funeral. Women talked in low tones meaning that they were still blinded with their past perceptions towards the Grierson. Additionally, before her death, the narrator explains how the women would rise whenever Miss Emily was passing by. It was not only a symbol of respect but also a sign that they feared the Grierson because of their lavish lifestyle and great family name.

The fear is also brought about by the fact that Griersons were members of the antebellum southern aristocracy. This shows that despite being the last in their clan of royals, Emily and her father still had the high-class attachment. Were it not for the civil war which had brought the rest of the suffering to their family, whereby Emily's father did not leave behind any money after his death, their family still had a place in the eyes of the society members. It is also an indication that the society was still obsessed with living in the past rather than being within the context of the present. The narrator also explains how the odor which emanated from Miss Emily's home had brought about discomfort in the area. However, none of these members of society has the courage to confront her (Skinner, John 47). They say she is a woman and nobody expects a woman to be smelly. With the fear of the family, the city council is only capable of sending some men under the cover of darkness to go to the Grierson's home and sprinkle lime around the house to dissipate the bad odor. Their lack of time control in perception even after the death of Emily's father makes them appear obsessed with the past and their fear for the family continues to remove guts of facing the family from them (Skinner, John 43).


Conclusively, it is evident that Faulkner seeks to explain how old versus new affects the society. Some members of society still dwell in the past and their previous obsolete perceptions affect their decision making in the present. Emily is a symbol of how the past can affect any positive progress in the future. The whole loss of sense of time control was the main line in which the story is built on.

Works Cited

Skinner, John. "A Rose for Emily": Against Interpretation." The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 15, no. 1, 2008, pp. 42-51.

Vartany, Edwin. "Time's Mathematical Progression in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily." Explicator, vol. 69, no. 3, 2011, pp. 189-192.

Watkins, Floyd C. "Structure of 'A Rose for Emily'." Modern Language Notes, vol. 508-10, 1954.

William Faulkner. A Rose for Emily. New York: Random House/Vintage, 1930.

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