Setting Analysis: “A Rose For Emily” By: William Faulkner

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner. This story intrigued me with the non-traditional theme, the mystery and gothic elements to it. I would say the movement for this story is Modernism, but also could be Naturalism. For modernism, noting from the time stamp of when it first appeared in 1930, but also because it portrays outside of normal tradition. Provides the readers with a sense of disorientation from Emily and the confusion throughout the town. This was also post Civil War. Faulkner had two of the main character embody characteristics of the decades-old feud. Emily portrayed as the “South” and Homer portrayed as the “North”.  As another thought, this could be paired into Naturalism as well… that era was diving into psychology, human behaviors and their outcomes.  The story begins in the year of 1894 in the beginning of the flashback. 

What year is it?

  • This is not a set in stone answer since it spans throughout Emily’s life. The story provides a flashback at the year of 1894 when she was relieved from paying taxes. We can surmise that the bulk of the story takes places the decade and few that follow it. Ending when she died at the age of 74.

What Country and region does it take place in? 

  • The story takes place in America, with the fictional city of Jefferson, Mississippi in the southern county of Yoknapatawpha. 

What is the political climate?

  • The town believes in the hierarchy that Emily’s family represents. Emily has been isolated due to the patriarchy from her father, when she has her breakdown to her illness; her money and social standing are what protects her. When Emily falls in love with Homer, the town cannot seem to understand or accept how she can be with someone that is a lower class northerner. 
  • This is also based Post Civil War from when there used to be slaves, but the African Americans are still not being seen as equals.

What is the culture like?

  • The era from the story is very different from our present day. So, what would be acceptable now, would be frowned upon back then. This story follows southern tradition and societal rules. Portraying the victorian era with women and the gossip that spread from Emily’s lack of husband and children. Back then, women were to be married in their 20s and already start to have kids. Emily being in her 30s went against the “established” tradition. I believe Faulkner used this perspective of Emily as a way to show that rules can be broken and that she embodies “change” in a sense. 

What specific things are apart of the surroundings?

  • Her house was stated that it is intricately decorated with cupolas, spires, and scrolled balconies, has fallen out of date and into disrepair. Also, the fact that it used to be white, suggesting the house has yellowed with age and that the paint has chipped to reveal the material underneath. 
  • The parlor: so old it “smelled of dust and disused” (Faulkner) and also “was furnished in heavy leather furniture” (Faulkner). 
  • When Faulkner mentioned the men sprinkling lime around her property to get rid of the bad smell.
  • “As they crossed the lawn, a window that had been darkness was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol.” (Faulkner). 

By: A.Stuebbe

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily”. New York. The Forum. 1930. https://americanliterature.com/author/william-faulkner/short-story/a-rose-for-emily