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Monday, December 31, 2012

Essay on a Rose for Emily: An Analysis on the Changing Portrayal of Miss Emily Grierson

Essay on a Rose for Emily: An Analysis on the Changing Portrayal of Miss Emily Grierson

The title character of William Faulkner’s renowned short story is depicted to be a tragic figure. A woman who never had the chance to fully enjoy her life, she seemed to have been extremely unhappy and as a result lived as a social recluse until the time of her death. 

Miss Emily Grierson is described as having been born to an old aristocratic family hailing from the south. It would seem that her whole life was heavily controlled by her father who, as described in the story, seemed to be a very domineering person. He was described in one portrait as a “spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horse whip” (2.10). Through this description the readers can assume that Miss Emily’s father is a domineering and menacing figure in her life, and the horse whip that he carried may symbolise his control over the woman’s life. Also, his back turned to her may suggest of his disregard for his daughter’s opinion on matters concerning her own life. Though not directly stated by the author, all of these things seemed to have heavily affected the way the title character developed. 

In the same portrait, Miss Emily is described as a “slender figure in white” (2.10). From this the readers can easily imagine that in her youth she may have been quite beautiful, even pure and innocent. She may have even had quite a number of suitors back in those days, although unfortunately because of her father’s presence, they may have been driven back. 

Having a strict and authoritative father such as Mr. Grierson, it is not hard to imagine Miss Emily as a well behaved and reserved child. She seemed to have been very obedient and held tremendous respect, if not fear, for her father. This can be assumed from the following line, “So when she got to be thirty and was still singleeven with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized” (2.10). Even though her father drove away all those suitors, it did not necessarily mean that she couldn’t have done anything to thwart his actions. However, the line just goes to show that she did nothing to stop him from preventing all those suitors to get close to her. 

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Because of her father’s domineering presence and control over her entire life, Emily greatly depended on him spiritually (Qun, 67). She was so used to having his presence directing her life that when he died she refused to acknowledge his death for fear of having the sole guiding force in her life taken away from her. As a result of her father’s death Miss Emily became more of a recluse than she was before, shutting herself up inside her home and showing great rigidity to the changes happening around her. 

There was a brief period in the story though when Miss Emily was described to have cut her hair short “making her look like a girl - with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows” (3.1). Readers may interpret this as a sign of her will to break away from her father’s domineering presence. Even though she was already thirty years old at that time, Emily may have felt that for the first time she has finally gained freedom. 

This sense of freedom did not last however as later on as Miss Emily grew older she was described as “a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head” (1.6). 

 Miss Emily was no longer the “slender young woman in white” rather she was this small, fat woman clad in black. It would seem that time had finally taken its toll on Emily, and life had finally overwhelmed her. The description of the thin gold chain (with a watch) vanishing into her waist seemed to suggest that time no longer progressed for the old woman, time had taken a stand still for her and she no longer felt any growth within herself. It can be concluded that Miss Emily had experienced a different kind of death, long before the physical one took her. 

 Cited Works

Cummings, Michael. "A Rose for Emily: a Study Guide." Free Study Guides for Shakespeare and Other Authors. N.p., 2010. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <>.
Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily." American Studies @ The University of Virginia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <>.
Qun, Xie. "Analysis of the Changing Portraits in "A Rose for Emily"." Canadian Social Science 3.2 (2007): 67. Web. 23 Dec. 2012. <>.

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