The Verbal Key to the City

The Verbal Key to the City

Tanisha Ware

ENG / 125

Monday, September 17, 2012

O. A., Ph.D[A1] .

The complex character of Emily Grierson in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is an explorative delve into the troubled world of an aging southern woman, lost behind her own eyes and always staring out.  The story is a gentle request to pause for a moment and mourn the death of an honorable woman no matter how crazy she may have seemed or proved to be. The narrative takes place in a reverse sequence by beginning with her ending… at her funeral.  Faulkner seductively unwraps a few layers of her life and her relationships, turning the reader into a detective inquiring as to what it was exactly that led her to reclusive behavior and then the grave. There are flashes and glimpses of little things that cause the reader to question, but with the closing the reader suddenly finds themselves fully invested in Emily’s state of mind.  That interest creates a desire to understand the intricate design of her overwhelming tragedy[A2] .

The town described is booming with southern charm as is the community within.  But, Emily is a recluse.  Her presence is tolerated more than it is appreciated or enjoyed.  For reasons that can only be contemplated, Emily is set with a home, apparent servant and tax-free living. The specifics of this arrangement are questioned as the southern way of living gets phased out with the northern way of winning.  Over many decades the only interaction with Emily is on a professional basis.  The city harasses her for taxes.  But she stands strong with her firmly repeated six word defense: “I have no taxes in Jefferson” (Faulkner, 1930).  While city officials did not understand why she had no taxes, they were escorted from her home “vanquished” (Faulkner, 1930[A3] ).

The story flashes back [A4] in time to the last time city officials got involved with Miss Emily and for whatever reason, their actions then were just as puzzling as the non-action of tax collecting.  There were three reports within two days of a smell and finally, for reasons unknown, a Judge was involved.  No legal action was taken, and in fact, it was assumed that the smell was from the kitchen not being kept properly (Faulkner, 1930).  Four men crept out into the middle of the night “broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there” (Faulkner, 1930).  Oddly, the problem was considered solved[A5] .

The dynamics of the relationship between Emily and her father is ripe with suggestions but remains lacking as there is nothing sufficient to prove there was anything perverse within their relationship.  Her father thought his daughter too good (as most do) and he kept her would-be suitors at bay. This piques the interest of the reader and alludes to more than a parental-like relationship when Emily refuses to release her father’s body.  After three days, she eventually does, and the narrator informs us:

“We did not say she was crazy then.  We believed she had to do that.  We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will” (Faulkner, 1930[A6] ).

Miss Emily goes on to entertain a relationship with a man by the name of Homer Barron after her father passes away.  The purchasing of monogrammed items and some men’s clothing leads the narrator to say “They are married” (Faulkner, 1930).  The community seems to have a love-hate relationship for Emily.  Wanting her to experience some happiness here and there, but openly disappointed when her heart wasn’t broken, publicly. Homer left, but soon returned.  He wasn’t seen after that, and again, the community expressed sympathy for the life she had succumbed to and her father having “thwarted her woman’s life so many times” (Faulkner, 1930[A7] ).

From what is available to the reader, we find that Miss Emily lost and buried her father, loved and lost a lover and lived a life of extreme solitude.  The author describes Emily as “a duty, and a care” (Faulkner, 1930).  She was considered an obligation and her family “held themselves a little too high for what they really were” (Faulkner, 1930).  What they were is never revealed, but what she went through and dealt with cannot possibly be imagined.  The town attended her funeral, but not because they cared for her.  They did not celebrate her well-lived life.  They attended her funeral because they were bound by both self-imposed southern-style hospitality-like obligation and unadulterated curiosity.  Her home, her land and her war-time inheritances afforded her a certain anonymity and solitude that was not appreciated[A8] .

Emily Grierson is a character that knows no bounds.  She proves to be a complex, inept, depressed, ill, woman with an insatiably hollow heart and a dark consuming secret.  Above all of these things, I think she is misunderstood.  Her father loved her, perhaps a little too hard, but she lived to love again.  Sadly he died too, near her, next to her, holding and loving her.  Her heart shattered for all time.  Her patriotism and her existence are celebrated and will remain timeless in a short story that the reader will read, analyze, and question for many years in this Verbal Key to the City[A9] .


Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. E. (2011). Literature for Composition (9th ed.). New York, New York: Longman.

 [A1]Hi Tanisha, the title page meets the APA standards.  Good job.

 [A2]Great introductory paragraph, Tanisha.  It previews the key elements of your essay from the author’s central thought to the strategies to express his idea.  I appreciate your outstanding writing skill!

 [A3]Excellent analysis!  Emily’s character stands in direct contrast to the ‘booming’ southern town.   Consider how Faulkner presents these conflicting images to the reader.

 [A4]This is an important aspect of the writer’s technique to create meaning in this dark story.

 [A5]You demonstrate an excellent understanding of the character interactions in this story and the use of appropriate quotations to support your points is remarkable.

 [A6]Your interpretation of   Emily’s relationship with her father is perceptive.  Part of Faulkner’s strategy is to leave room for the reader’s imagination to fill the gaps!

 [A7]Emily’s relationship with Homer is equally complex.  Why do you think Faulkner created this tragic relationship?  Can we find the theme of this story in the interactions between Emily and Homer?

 [A8]What may be Faulkner’s view of society as expressed in this story?

 [A9]This is a great concluding paragraph.  It is logical and flows from the introduction.  Overall, this is a great essay.  Your writing skill is outstanding and the paper is virtually error free.  You demonstrate a thorough understanding of the story and your analysis of Faulkner’s literary technique to convey his idea is commendable.  The use of quotations from the story to support your main points is equally remarkable.

Consider how you may structure your paper to include a discussion on the author’s purpose and possible audience.

How may you describe the theme of this work with   greater clarity and what’s your reaction to it?

Your title page and in-text citations are consistent with the APA formatting guidelines.  Review the reference page format to meet the APA standards.

 [A10]Try to check the Reference page  examples document in the Tutorials & Guides section of the Center for Writing Excellence for examples of correct formatting.