A Rose For Emily

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade August 2001

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Gavin Stevens, the acclaimed author of "Requiem for a Nun", once wrote, "The past is never dead. The past is not even past." In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily", this ideal of the immortal past actually surviving the merciless progression of time into the present runs deep, almost down to every written word. "A Rose for Emily" takes place after the Civil War, when the South is on the brink of a new century, in the town of Jefferson, Mississippi. This theme of the past versus the present creates an eerie story surrounding the death of old Emily Grierson and her past life. Emily Grierson, the protagonist of this short story, represents the dying old traditions of the South. This representation is possible because she refuses to realize the present and relinquish the past to the continuation of time. The present is largely represented through the words of the anonymous narrator, which the reader can assume is the town and its many facets speaking as a whole, since the story is told in the first person "we", and not "I."

Through the existence of Emily and the narrator in "A Rose for Emily", Faulkner invents a story that personifies the abstract battle between the past and the present.

The past versus present theme is easily identified even from the first paragraph of the story when the anonymous narrator refers to Emily as "a fallen monument" (667). She is a "monument" because she epitomizes all the ideals of the old South or what the town sees as the past, in general. She had the gentility and grace of a traditional southern woman, who was also once completely controlled by one male figure in her life. These were all typical southern ideals of the past that Emily never...