The clash between past and present in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner

Essay by nachosoHigh School, 10th gradeA+, April 2008

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In “A Rose for Emily”, written by William Faulkner, a character (Miss Emily) chooses to live in the past, and “den[ies] changing the customs and the passage of time” . Faulkner succeeds in showing the great contrast between the past and the present era, not only in Miss Emily herself, but also in many other ways. Therefore, the aim of this current essay is to explore the ways in which he presents this recurrent clash between past and present.

However, this clash did not appear from one day to another. The South, which was less modern than the North, held the curse of slavery, and the Civil War was started because of it. The South was devastated and its moral values, such as the Code of Chivalry, which was said to protect women but actually oppressed them, collapsed. The newer generation came along with its more modern values, which were impure as well.

While the past based its beliefs on the artificial rules set by society, the present thought that everything should be written down. When a member from the rising generation asks Judge Stevens to do something about the smell coming from Miss Emily’s house, he denies doing so, respecting the code of chivalry, because it is not correct to “accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad”, although the Board of Aldermen later decide to enter Miss Emily’s garden without her permission so as to spray lime, something which shows that the hypocritical values are common to both times.

The house in which the Griersons have lived for generations is presented as “a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies”. However this is part of the...