Emily Grierson: A Victim of the Old South
Many distinguishing traditions and
rules were curated in the time period known as the Old South. While few select
customs might have spread into current society, many ideas such as slavery and arranged
marriages have slowly faded out. Women in this time period were looked upon as
objects and held no responsibility for themselves. William Faulkner’s “A Rose
for Emily” illustrates the unbefitting events that victimize women in the ideas
of chivalry, formal manners and old-fashioned tradition.
Chivalry is known as kind, well-mannered
and selfless behavior, especially by men for women. The chivalry described in
“A Rose for Emily” includes stereotypical concepts of the male as the main financial
provider and women as stay-at-home caregivers. The main character Emily is
portrayed as a conventional Southern woman. Emily has never dealt with money or
any household affairs. To verify her victimization of chivalry, after her
father’s passing she hires a negro man to handle her errands and undertakings. Subsequently
after her father’s death, she insists that her father is not dead. As a young
woman, Emily’s father did not allow her to live her own life; therefor when his
death occurred, the only life she had ever known died alongside him.
Emily Grierson was raised singlehandedly by a
father who enforced a sense of formal manner. Coming from an honorable family
she might have felt that she was also held to a higher standard. Townspeople
generally regarded Emily as overconfident and a model daughter of Southern
nobility. Her formal manner takes a turn for the worse when she can no longer
escape from society’s expectation of women. The people of the Old South
believed it was proper manner for women to stay home and to leave only for
groceries. “Colonel Sartoris, the mayor fathered the edict that no negro woman
should appear on the streets without an apron” (Faulkner 30). Furthermore, her
father’s strong belief in Old Southern standards presumably meant that a suitor
of the New South would not be acceptable for his daughter, so he drove off all
men ever interested in his daughter.
In today’s current society, ideas that
were considered old-fashioned then would now be considered ancient. In “A Rose
for Emily”, the town is beginning to progress, while Miss Emily choses to stay
in her own reality. Midway through the story, a new love interest is introduced.
Homer Barron, a Northerner and foreman of new town construction, begins to find
interest in Emily. Homer is used as a symbol of the story almost as an
antagonist, opposing Emily’s old fashioned belief in a fixed society. She
becomes so victimized by her immovable customs that she believes there is only
one way to make sure Homer does not disagree and leave her—murder.
Throughout the story, Miss Emily is seen
to be a symbol of the Old South. The symbolism here is presented when Emily
dies, bestowing the lasting remnants of the Old South to die with her. William
Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” illustrates the inappropriate proceedings that
victimize women in the ideas of chivalry, formal manners, and old-fashioned
tradition. Sadly, until the day of her death, Emily is enslaved to the ways of
the Old South.