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A Rose for Emily Setting: Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:04 A Small Word
  • 0:39 Emily's Era
  • 2:02 The Citizens of Jefferson
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

If you've ever lived in a small town, you'll recognize the setting of William Faulkner's 'A Rose for Emily.' Faulkner uses post-Civil War Jefferson, Mississippi, to explore the life of Emily Grierson, the story's main character.

A Small World

The setting, or location, of William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily is a small town in the South. The story takes place in the town of Jefferson, Mississippi. Jefferson is a fictional town loosely based on Oxford, Mississippi, where Faulkner lived most of his adult life.

Like A Rose for Emily, most of Faulkner's works are set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, of which Jefferson is the county seat. In these novels and short stories, Faulkner creates a microcosm, or a small world that features universal qualities common to all people and places.

Emily's Era

Though the narrative does not present events in chronological order, it's possible to determine the approximate dates of the story's events. Emily Grierson, the story's protagonist (or main character) is born around 1861-1864 during the American Civil War. As a result of the South's defeat, the abolition of slavery, and the period of Reconstruction that followed the war, Emily and the other citizens in A Rose for Emily find themselves in a changing world. Many Southerners continued to hold on to the notion of a lost cause.

The tendency to cling to the past, which is a function of the time and place of the story, is apparent in the townspeople's insistence on adherence to old customs, traditions, and thought. For example, the custom of attending to the grieving is highlighted when Emily's father dies: ''The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom.''

When Emily is first seen with Homer Barron, a man who has come to work on constructing Jefferson's first sidewalks, the townspeople believe that Emily will not seriously consider a courtship with him. For one thing, she is an aristocrat, and his job doing manual labor would be beneath her station in life. In addition, with the wounds of the Civil War still unhealed, the townspeople do not believe Emily would become involved with ''a Yankee.'' The ladies of Jefferson say, ''Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.''

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