William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is a ghost story expressing his interpretations of the legacy of the Old South. Faulkner was a very accomplished writer of his time, famous for writing stories based on his family and hometown. Through his background, his characters and setting, and his viewpoint on the Old South, he depicts a picture of Southern traditionalism for his audience. This short story by Faulkner is of an older , aristocratic lady by the name of Miss Emily Grierson. She goes on to live a life in solitude and by the remembrances of her father. However, Emily meets a man a few years later. But the man’s mysterious absence creates a much suspicion throughout the neighborhood. After several years after the man’s disappearance Emily dies and the neighbors invade her house to discover the missing man’s forty-year old, molded body with a strand of Emily’s hair on his pillow. This story is one of Faulkner’s most accomplished pieces based on the memory of his past. Faulkner’s background was very influential in his writing and also in incorporating the Old South in his works. He was born on September 25, 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi and then later moved to Lafayette County, Mississippi. It was there in Lafayette County which Faulkner based many of his stories but only under a different name such as, Jefferson in Yoknapatawpha County. Faulkner’s father was the treasurer of the University of Mississippi, and his great-grandfather had fought in the Mexican and Civil Wars. Several of Faulkner’s characters were based on his relatives to give his audience a portrait of true Southern folk. For example, in “A Rose for Emily” Colonel Sartoris is a model of Faulkner’s great-grandfather. People of all sorts+wealthy or poor, evil or good, slave or free were focused on in his writing. Faulkner’s view on the legacy of the Old South was that, “the past is never dead,” thus, he believed that if he wrote about it, he as well as his audience could pursue to keep the past alive. Mr. Donald Kartiganer’s response to Faulkner’s viewpoint is as such, It is a phrase often thought to evoke Southern traditionalism, but it may better reveal
Faulkner’s knowledge of the tragic burdeen history had influenced on the South, a burden that weighed on the minds of thoughtful young Southerners who struggled through his writings to understand and help others understand how the past haunted the present (Kartiganer 34-35). Kartiganer also adds, “in his own day he was confronting the changes that history had brought to his land and people, and in which of his best writing Faulkner was working toward an understanding of the past and the ways it impinged upon the present” (36). Both statements made by Kartiganer support and explain Faulkner’s efforts to keep the legacy of the Old South or Southern traditionalism alive. In reference to an interview, some of Faulkner’s views and thoughts on his story “A Rose for Emily” are presented. Faulkner was asked, was there an inspiration for writing this? His response, “to me that was another sad and tragic manifestation of man’s condition in which he dreams and hopes, in which is in conflict with himself or with his environment or with others.” This answer is in reference to Emily’s “tragic manifestation” and her “conflict” with herself in her town. Another question issued to Faulkner, is this piece a criticism of the North and South? He answered, “I was simply trying to write about people. The writer uses environment+what he knows+and if there’s a symbolism in which the lover represented the North and the woman who murdered represents the South, I don’t say that’s not valid and not there ” Here, Faulkner is telling us that he was just writing about Southerners in general, and that if the North and South seemed to be criticized it was not intended. Faulkner’s response to the last question, is the story an idea or a character, was simple. He replied, “it was a ghost story. Simply a picture of a strand of hair on the pillow in the house.” This statement means the picture of the hair on the pillow was the symbol in which the ghost story was created. Thus, “A Rose for Emily” was nothing more than an idea from Faulkner’s past.