La Tour , La Madeleine a la veilleuse
 Introduction to Literature

"A Rose for Emily" 

Study Questions

Before Reading

-- Title: The title of this story is only apparently easy; later you will need to explain for yourself what this rose means.
-- Setting: The town of Jefferson in the north of Mississippi.
For your reference,both Jefferson and the county it belongs to,Yoknapatawpha County, are the products of Faulkner's fiction.


After the 1st Reading: (Please remember the general questions suggested for making your annotations.)
1. Setting & Language

  • What was your impression of Miss Emilyˇ¦s house when you first read this story?
  • Read only Section I and then answer these questions: What descriptive words would you use to describe Miss Emily? Would you like her if you met her in person? Would you make friends with her if you had a chance? Why or why not?
  • What images are associated with Emily? (e.g. her clothing and the chain watch). If they have symbolic meanings, what do you think they symbolize?
  • 2. Plot

    1. Besides remembering your first impressions, the first task for you after reading the story once will be to straighten out the plot. The story begins and ends with the "end" of Emily's story.  Try to draw a time line from Emily's life before her father's death to her own death.
    2. This story is what we call "a gothic story." Is it in any way prepared for?  What does the very ending about the hair imply?
    3. What does the title of the story mean?  The story, however, is not only about Emily and her eccentric character. Considering the setting of the story--both in terms of time and place, what could the story be also about?

    2. Narrative Point of View

    • It is hard to separate the narrator's views about Emily from Emily the person, since the whole story is told from the former's perspective.  But try to gather factual information about Emily (for instance, her refusing to acknowledge her father's death, her appearing in public with Homer Barron, etc.) and describe what kind of person Emily is.
    • What does the narrator think about Emily at different stages of her life?  What kind of person do you think the narrator is.  (Notice the frequent use of "we.")  How, or in what sequence, does he tell the story.

    3. Main Characters and Minor Ones:

    • What do you think was the father-daughter relationship between Miss Emily and her father? What clues in the text can you find or what personal knowledge or experience can you think of to support your answer?
    • In your observation, how do the narrator and the townsfolk view the young Miss Emily? How does she change with time? How does the narratorˇ¦s view of Miss Emily change? How does yours?
    •   Do you think that Emily Grierson differs from Homer Barron in terms of character and background? How? What have you understood from the authorˇ¦s portraits of these two characters and from his account of life in this Mississippi town?


    4. Symbolic Language and the Characters' Actions:


    Further Questions or After the 2nd Reading:

    1. Why did Emily Grierson murder her lover? Did she really kill him?

    2. Is Emily a victim or a heroine?

    3. Who are the narrators? Does it make a difference if they are women, or men?

    4. Were you in any way entertained by the story? How? One critic (Sniderman) argues that Faulkner uses the rhetorical strategies of tabloid journalism to establish the guilt of Emily: "sensational, excessive, gossipy, stereotyped." Do you agree?

    5. Do you think that our knowledge of the Old South vs. the New South, and the American Civil war matters in our understanding of this short story?




    • Elements of the Gothic: a setting in an ancestral house, real or perceived occult events, and a woman at risk. Also, the motifs of grotesque body and border-crossing (Palmer).
    • The American South -- a. the history of Civil War; b. the Southern belle.


    William Faulkner on the Web

      Background: the South (from Resources For American Literature)
    William Faulkner (1897-1962) is most widely known for his epic portrayal, in some twenty novels, of the tragic conflict between the old and the new South. The majority of Faulkner's works are centered around his hometown of Oxford, in Lafayette County, Mississippi. However, in Faulkner's fictional literature, the setting is renamed Jefferson, in Yoknapatawpha County. In addition, names from Faulkner's family, such as Sartoris, consistently appear throughout his work. In fact, his great-grandfather William Clark Falkner- the "Old Colonel" -was the model for Colonel Sartoris in various novels. Overall, Faulkner's numerous stories encompass the time period ranging from pre-Civil War days through the early 1960's. This author's fiction recreates more than a century of Jefferson life. People of all sorts come into sharp focus in his literature. Despite his complex and usually confusing style, the "old verities and truths of the heart" are nearly always emphasized.

    Relevant Links


    Palmer, Louis. "Bourgeois blues: class, whiteness, and Southern Gothic in early Faulkner and Caldwell." The Faulkner Journal 22.1-2 (2006): 120+. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 30 Aug. 2010.

    Sniderman, Stephen L. "The Tabloidization of Emily." Journal 10-6.2 (Spring 2002): 177-201. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 97. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 30 Aug. 2010.