Faulkner’s "A Rose For Emily" is narrated from the viewpoint of an anonymous resident of Jefferson, Mississippi, where the Grierson family was the closest thing to true aristocracy. The story presents an authoritative argument that privilege can occasionally be a prison. To the outside world, it may have appeared that Miss Emily Grierson grew up in the lap of lavishness. However, it was a lonely survival, for her father ruled Emily’s life with an iron fist, rotating away every suitor the young girl had; no one was good enough for his daughter. Not surprisingly, the first thing Emily did after her father’s death was to find a boyfriend and a very improbable one at that a Yankee day laborer named Homer Barron. She went out driving with Homer in a flashy yellow-wheeled buggy, and bought him very personal articles a silver toilet set, a nightshirt. Today our first supposition would be that he was her lover, but this was the small-town South, and another time. The townspeople assumed she had gotten married secretly, of course, because under the situation of a big society wedding would be in bad taste.
For a while, Emily persuaded herself that the townspeople still respected her. After all, she never really proposed Homer to supplant her father in the eyes of the town. He could not have, because he was neither a Son of the South nor a pillar of the community; Homer’s role was purely that of a consort, filling a vacancy at Emily’s side. However, when Emily learned Homer was gay, she realized his company would cause her to be pitied and laughed at. This she could not abide, so he had to go. (Heller, 1972)
Forty years later, after Emily died, the townspeople carefully entered the house that few had visited since the death of Mr. Grierson. There they were moved, but not really surprised, to find Homer’s skeletal body on a luxurious bed in a locked room, Emily’s iron-gray hair lying on the pillow beside his head. In "A Rose for Emily," Faulkner shows the tragedy that results from our adherence to social roles that constrain, rather than free, our true selves. Even after his death, Miss Emily kept her father’s decaying body in the house. Following her father’s example, she clung firmly to the past telling everyone in the town he was still alive and refusing to accept her father’s death. Even though the law intervened and buried her father, the "crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father" further stress the great effect he had on her lifestyle and mindset.
However, the times began to vary and the town moved on toward the future. Cotton gins and auto garages replaced the houses until only Miss Emily’s house was left. These changes infer the gradual substitute of the past with the present industrialization. In addition, the replacement of the distinguished communities represented the changing approach of the people. (Petry, 1986) Rather than accepting the aristocratic attitudes of the Old South, the working class began to step up and realize their own worth, encroaching on the power the "august names" once held in Jefferson. Miss Emily’s house had become "an eyesore among eyesores" and was her last home standing. Because of this, she and her house stood as the last obstruction to the modernization that was taking place in Jefferson. The house was a visible reminder of Miss Emily’s refusal to submit herself to the changing ways.
The replacement of the buildings, such as Miss Emily’s house, in Jefferson came with the matching replacement of the townspeople. The newer generation, "with its more modern ideas.... became the backbone and the spirit of the town." The extensive standing families moved out of Jefferson and new people moved in. They brought with them their own attitudes and novelties. This renovation caused some chaos in the unchanging life of Emily.
Barron’s approach toward marriage emphasized further his contrast of Emily’s representation of the past. While Miss Emily had traditional ideas of courting and marriage, "Homer himself had remarked...that he was not a marrying man." Therefore, he was less interested in a monogamous relationship where he enforced to settle down. When Barron left Emily, for what appeared to be a tryst with another woman, he was leaving the past behind him, looking anxiously toward change. Upon his return, Miss Emily poisoned him with arsenic, which killed him, and prohibited him from moving on toward the future. With that action, she also gets rid of the only source of change she had ever accepted in her life.