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A Rose for Emily

Reinhold Niebuhran an American theologian once said “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” (change quotes). In the reading “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, a rhetorical critic, I learned that Emily was resistant to change. She refused to change herself from how she had lived in her earlier years. Three ways you can see this resistance is in the symbolism, setting, and tone within the story. Emily refused to change, no matter who it was for, even if it was better for her.

The setting in the story played a major role in showing Emily’s resistance to change. A good example of this would be Emily’s house. Everything she had was very old fashion, things she’s had for many years. She never wanted to buy the more advance furniture for her house, or even for her yard. In the story, when the Board of Alderman visited Emily’s home to try and convince her she has to pay her taxes, they sat of the coach and the narrator said “When they sat, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray”(Faulkner,1). Emily didn’t remodel her house, or even clean it for probably many years. They began changing the sidewalks in the town, beginning the huge operation but still Emily did not move along with the rest of the townsmen and women as they were changing. Also, since it was such a small town Emily lived in, everyone gossiped about everything. The women were always interested in what was going on with Emily. And even though they even tried to be social with her, Emily refused and just kept to herself like always. The narrator says “we learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler’s and ordered a man’s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B on each piece”(Faulkner,5). Those women knew every detail possible about Emily, that’s why Emily kept to herself, and didn’t trust people or change.

Also, symbolism is another way that you can see Emily’s resistance to change in the story. Emily didn’t speak much in the story, so the easiest way to understand her is by understanding the symbolism. At the end of the story, when the town’s people found Emily’s dead husband’s body, that symbolizes how crazy and delusional Emily really was. She killed her husband, but was so scared of her life changing without him; she kept his body in their bed. After they find the husband’s body they describe it saying “What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay”Faulkner, 7). At the very beginning of the story, it talks about how a lot of the town’s people were upset with Emily thinking she didn’t have to pay taxes. But in Emily’s eyes she was doing nothing wrong at all, because Colonel Sartoris told her had told her many years ago that she didn’t have to. With her resistance to change, she refused to change the rules just because there was a newer younger man in charge. In the story Emily says “See Colonel Sartoris, I have no taxes in Jefferson” (Faulkner, 2). Colonel Sartoris had also been dead for ten years, so this really shows how insane she really was.

Lastly, you can also see Emily’s resistance to change in the tone of the story. The feeling of this story to the readers would be depressing. Emily is a woman, clearly not in the right state of mind, trying to fight against a new type of world that she just can’t beat. The narrator talked a lot about how Emily never had any visitors besides one negro man that brought groceries for her. “A few ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man—a young man then—going in and out with a market basket”(Faulkner,2). This makes readers sad. Sad that Emily doesn’t want the company of other people, to try to lead her on the right path. Her father’s death and the man everyone thought she would marry left her. This sets the tone in a place where everything is going wrong for Emily, and she is depressed. She hid herself from the world because she hated it. When Emily went into the store to buy the poison, the tone of the story completely flips. Now everyone was thinking that Emily was going to kill herself, but they felt good about it. But as the story goes on, and they find out that Emily had really used it to kill her husband, the tone is flipped all over again. Depressed feelings that Emily was that demented to do that to her own husband, and then keep his body for that long. The narrator says “So the next day we all said she will kill herself, and we said it would be the best thing” (Faulkner, 5). Emily had changed this tone of the story many times, but never in a good way.

Emily was a very disturbed woman, and had many things wrong in her life. But it was all because of her resistance to change. Emily went through a lot in her life, but mostly was her own fault. From refusing to pay taxes, all the way to murdering her own husband, Emily would do anything to not have anything change in her life. From the tone, symbolism and setting of the story, it was easy to see her resistance was strong. No one may ever understand what was really going through Emily’s mind about all this, but we do know that she died an unchanged woman.




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