The townspeople’s attitudes in ” A Rose for Emily”are typical of a small town. Small towns have the distinction of containing the nosiest and most judgmental people that exist. Having been born and raised in a small town in Mississippi, I completely understand the townspeople in ” A Rose for Emily.”It is mainly the women that are concerned with others”business. They have nothing to do during the day, so they sit and gossip with each other. Questions get asked while these women sit and gossip, and if no one knows the answers then assumptions are made. In “A Rose for Emily”, these assumptions are evident. The attitude of the townspeople is truly indicative of a small town.
The first mystery Faulkner introduces us to is the house. Right away Faulkner says, “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: …the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house”(72). This quote shows the inherent nosiness of the women of the town. The women wish to see the inside of the house because Miss Emily never had any visitors, so no one really knew what the inside was like. Women inherently want to see, comment, and critique the inside of another’s home. When someone of Miss Emily’s stature denies them this privilege, it increases the curiosity and rumors. The last people to see the house were the aldermen trying to collect taxes, and they were quickly thrown out. Besides them, the only person who saw
the inside was her servant, Tobe, whom the women seem to question every time they see him to find out details. These details did little to satisfy them because they pondered so much about this mysterious woman.
The next question posed to the reader is the issue of Miss Emily marrying. It was uncommon in those days for a young lady to be single and without children. It did not help that Miss Emily’s father kept her behind his iron curtain all of his life. This secrecy is why all the rumors began to circulate when Homer Barron came to town. Faulkner writes, “When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said “she will marry him’”(76). This marriage is what the townspeople are wishing; however, there is some objection by the women of the town. They are, of course, worried about Miss Emily’s standing. Faulkner portrays Emily as a person of nobility. Homer Barron is also a Northerner, a characteristic that many Southerners do not find charming. When the talk of marriage arises and then nothing happens, Faulkner writes, “even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige”(75). This phrase means that a woman of such high stature could not possibly wed a common worker. Then later when again marriage looks eminent, the ladies of the town call on the Baptist preacher to go see Miss Emily. About Homer Barron, Faulkner says, “he liked men, and it was known he drank with the younger men at the Elks Club”(76). The women of the town are worried that someone whose name stands in such high regard in the town will set a bad example for the young people of Jefferson if she is allowed to marry Homer Barron.
Many other events spark the curious attitude the town takes towards Miss Emily.
When she buys the arsenic, Faulkner writes, “So the next day we all said, “She will kill herself’”(76). Just the simple purchasing of arsenic creates speculation about Miss Emily. This assumption again shows the curious attitude of the town. They “know”Emily is getting married when she brings home a tuxedo and a nightshirt, but when Homer Barron is never seen again they assume that he has left her. All of the small things Miss Emily does cause rumors to spread.
The attitude shown towards Miss Emily is played out in small towns all over the world. The town goes through periods of hostility towards Miss Emily and periods of sorrow for her. The hostility arises from the secret life she has lived behind closed doors, while the sorrow stems from the loss of her true love, Homer Barron. I cannot count the number of times I have listened to my grandmother and all her friends gossip about people. In small towns there is very little to do. The peculiarities of Miss Emily are perfect for gossip. People expect so much more from her since she is from a family that is highly regarded. She goes against the image of what a lady of her time should be. She does not gossip, take care of her own home, or love a good old Southern boy. She keeps to herself, has a butler, and loved a northern worker. Not much else is known about her, and the only information the town gets is from her servant. All of these factors cause the nosey and almost resentful attitude the town has towards Miss Emily.