A Rose for Emily

William Faulkner

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A Rose for Emily | Quotes


Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care.

Narrator, Part 1

Miss Emily is more of a symbol to the citizens of Jefferson than an actual person. She serves as a reminder of how life was in the years before and following the Civil War. Though southern culture evolves, Miss Emily does not.


Not that Miss Emily would have accepted charity.

Narrator, Part 1

Miss Emily embodies the stereotype of the upper-class southern woman made of steel. Accepting financial help would be even worse than admitting there is a problem in the first place. Colonel Sartoris knows she won't swallow her pride to ask for help, so he concocts a story about a debt the city owes her father.


It was another link between the gross, teeming world and the high and mighty Griersons.

Narrator, Part 2

The smell emanating from Miss Emily's house is a reminder the Griersons are no longer pristine and regal, above such things as decay.


When she got to be thirty and was still single, we were ... vindicated.

Narrator, Part 2

The townspeople are not exactly happy Emily is still single but think that, due to the Griersons' high and mighty attitude, her loneliness is somehow deserved.


With nothing left, she would ... cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

Narrator, Part 2

Mr. Grierson prevented Miss Emily from marrying and surrounding herself with people who love her. She refuses to acknowledge his death because he is literally the only person in her life and she cannot bear being alone. His status as family patriarch is what earns her unwavering devotion.


She carried her head high enough—even when we believed that she was fallen.

Narrator, Part 3

Miss Emily maintains her sense of dignity and class even when people in the town think she has been sleeping with Homer Barron. She is defiant in the face of gossip, and she doesn't dignify their low thoughts with even the merest hint of acknowledgment.


For rats.

Druggist, Part 3

The druggist's note on the box of arsenic indicates the poison is to be used for rats. In a sense the druggist is right. Miss Emily uses the arsenic to kill the biggest rat in her life, Homer Barron, who does not marry her after an extensive courtship.


That ... which had thwarted her woman's life ... had been ... too furious to die.

Narrator, Part 4

The narrator is saying the influence Mr. Grierson had on his daughter doesn't go with him to his grave. She will never be free from the unhappy life he constructs for her.


Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped.

Narrator, Part 4

The passage of time is marked by the graying of hair and the aging of Tobe's body, quickly advancing the timeline back to where the story began.


Thus she passed from generation to generation—dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.

Narrator, Part 4

Miss Emily means so many things to the citizens of Jefferson. Her age and family name require they revere her, and she is both terrifying and not easy to forget.


They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it.

Narrator, Part 5

The narrator isn't a member of the party who breaks down Miss Emily's bedroom door. He says "they" instead of "we." This indicates the great respect the narrator has for Miss Emily. Though he has no problem going into the room to see what's there, he doesn't want to be the one to actually expose her secrets.


The long sleep that outlasts love, ... conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.

Narrator, Part 5

Death has turned Homer Barron into a cuckold, or a man whose wife is cheating on him. Cuckold generally has a negative connotation and is often used to emasculate the man it is used to describe. In this instance Emily's actions to ensure his fidelity have taken away his masculine authority.

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