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A Rose for Emily Theme

One of the greatest themes in A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner is the conflict between tradition and change. The story juxtaposes the past with the present in various ways. Emily's home is described as once being the nicest in town, but it has since fallen into disrepair. Left destitute after her father died, Emily has not paid taxes in years; the new generation of townspeople does not agree with this arrangement, and confront her about it.

Tradition and Change

A Rose for Emily Theme

The clearest example of the conflict between tradition and change is revealed at the very end, with Emily's unwillingness to allow Homer to leave her, even after he has died. She refuses to let go of something she knows, of her tradition; she holds the body in an upstairs bedroom for decades, clinging to that notion of tradition and normalcy that she valued so highly throughout her entire life and has lost with age.


Equally important in this short story is the impact that death can have on a person. For Emily, the death of her father was catastrophic; she refused to admit he was gone for a period of three days. Her entire lifestyle changed, as she was suddenly plunged into poverty. When Homer died, she could not take such a trauma again, and kept his body in her own home. The death first of her father and second of her lover pushed her out of the realm of sanity; she no longer had a grip on reality and descended into a world of her own creation. The death of Emily also changed the town, as took away a relic of their past, allowing them to break ties with the traditions of former leaders and chart their own path for themselves.


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