Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the major themes in “A Rose for Emily” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “A Rose for Emily” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Diagnosing Miss Emily in “A Rose for Emily”
Miss Emily Grierson, the title character in the story “A Rose for Emily," is certainly a bizarre character. Withdrawn from society, trapped in a world of delusions, Emily never receives any psychiatric treatment, but she definitely exhibits symptoms indicative of mental illness. By examining Emily’s behavior and her social relationships, it is possible to diagnose Emily with a mental illness. Although her community never thought Emily was “crazy," she was indeed a very ill person. If you're having trouble identifying signs of mental illness in Miss Emily, this psychological character analysis of Emily will be quite helpful.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Role of Community in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
In “A Rose for Miss Emily," the entire community conspires—albeit unconsciously—to protect both Miss Emily and the small town from the shame and stigma of Miss Emily’s illness and idiosyncratic behavior. By examining the different behaviors and statements of the members of the community, the reasons for their denial will be identified and analyzed. It will be argued that the community is highly invested in protecting their identity as an upstanding, traditional Southern community. Even though their behavior is dysfunctional, it is adaptive for their purposes.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Importance of Physical Place in “A Rose for Emily”
There is the macrocosmic setting of the South that lends a sense of place, both physical and psychological, to “A Rose for Emily," as well as the microcosmic setting of the house in which Emily has spent most of her adult life in bed with the corpse of her fiance. Both places are critical and are used to reinforce the psychological landscape of the story. By examining both of these settings—the macrocosmic and the microcosmic—the writer will explain how physical place contextualizes and emphasizes psychological place.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Effect of the Omniscient, Anonymous Narrator in “A Rose for Emily”
One of the interesting techniques that Faulkner used to develop “A Rose for Emily" was his use of an unnamed narrator whose relationship to Emily and whose role in the life of the town is somewhat ambiguous. Still, the reader cannot help but be struck by the way in which the narrator tells the story of the strange Miss Emily, constantly using the word “we" to describe the feelings of the townspeople and their suspicions of Miss Emily. In this essay, the effect of this narrative style will be examined through close textual analysis.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic # 5: The Role of “The Negro" in “A Rose for Emily
One of the only townspeople to have contact with Miss Emily during her years of isolation is an older African American man who never speaks but who nonetheless plays a critical role in the development of the story. Though he is asked what happens inside the house, he never discloses any of Miss Emily’s private behavior, despite its eccentricity. The writer will analyze the character of the Negro, who is unnamed, and the importance that he has in the story’s development. The writer will also speculate on the reasons for his secrecy.
For more a more extensive understanding of a few of these themes in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, check out the helpful articles A Psychological Character Analysis of Faulkner's Miss Emily and Comparison of Themes in “A Rose for Emily" “The Yellow Wallpaper" and “Sweat"
This list of important quotations from “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “A Rose for Emily” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town…." (47)
“I’d be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily…." (50)
“Dammit, sir…will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad " (51)
“The day after [her father’s] death, all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. Miss Emily met them at the door,… with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days…. " (52)
“We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that." (52)
“She carried her head high enough—even when we believed that she was fallen." (53)
“[T]he law requires you tell what you are going to use [the arsenic] for. Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up." (54)
“So the next day we all said, ‘She will kill herself’ and we said it would be the best thing." (55)
“Thus she passed from generation to generation—dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse." (57)
“The Negro met the first of the ladies at the front door and let them in… and then he disappeared. He walked right through the house and out the back and was not seen again." (58)
Reference: Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily." Selected Short Stories. New York: Modern Library, 1993.
What Emily Grierson Represents to the Townspeople in Faulkner's " A Rose for Emily"
A Rose for Emily tells of a woman named Emily Grierson who lived in the South where a rigid class structure determined the expectations regarding a person’s behavior and society’s treatment of them. Miss Emily was the daughter of a rich upper class man who was quite influential in the community of Jefferson so it was expected that the community respect his daughter, Emily. Many allowances were made for Miss Emily’s bizarre behavior because of Mr. Grierson’s standing in the community. Miss Emily did not pay property taxes because of past favors that her father had done for the town. Emily’s marriage to Homer Barron could have been seen as a disgrace because of her husband’s place of birth and occupation, he was a Northerner and a day laborer, but the marriage gave Emily the opportunity to redeem herself by performing the role of a wife, which was expected of a woman with such a high status in society. Miss Emily represented women in society who were unable to find happiness because of a stifling class system that dictated the standards for living and prevented Emily from getting the medical help she needed during her times of deep suffering.
Some of the townspeople could not fathom the courtship between Homer and Miss Emily since they felt that “even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige.” (p. 2172) They disapproved of Miss Emily and Homer riding past in her glittering buggy on Sundays with her head held high as if she were courting a man considered appropriate by the community of Jefferson. The women in the community thought Emily’s behavior was disgraceful and not a proper example for the young people in the community. They called upon the Baptist minister to persuade Miss Emily to act in a manner befitting her station but after his meeting with Emily, he refused to return to her house so Miss Emily continued to exhibit behavior, which was unacceptable to the community. No one attempted to change her behavior again because Miss Emily was soon seen at the jeweller, which suggested to the townspeople that she was preparing to get married to Homer.
After her father’s death, Miss Emily continued to portray herself as a very dignified woman. Even when she became ill she was determined to maintain her status in the community and the townspeople realized that she continued to demand their recognition of her as the last Grierson remaining in the town. “She carried her head high enough even when we believed that she was fallen.” (p. 2172) Her life was a sorrowful story that provided a steady source of gossip for the townspeople.
Miss Emily represented “a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town.” (p. 2169) The town fathers refused to confront her about the smell emanating from her house. Instead, they put lime to treat the odor. The pharmacist gave arsenic to Miss Emily even though she refused to give him a valid reason for its use. The community looked after Emily but it was out of a sense of duty and not genuine concern for her welfare and everyone gossiping about her evidenced this. Many people did not agree with allowing Emily to freely behave as she pleased but the townsfolk followed the orders of the town fathers who felt that the community owed it to Miss Emily’s father to take care of her.
The townspeople felt both pity and sympathy for Miss Emily. They knew that her father had dominated her all her life and that the only man whom she loved and was willing to marry had suddenly left her. After her father’s death, she continued life in the same pattern, of male domination that she had experienced during her father’s lifetime. She sought to find a replacement for her father and was attracted to the authoritarian character in the men that she loved and this may have been the reason why she kept their bodies around after their deaths to maintain the same environment to which she had been accustomed and to alleviate the feeling of loneliness. No one questioned Emily holding her father’s body for three days after his death or the cause of Homer’s death even though he had disappeared and had subsequently been found dead in Emily’s house and she had been known to purchase arsenic. Instead, the people of the town still felt a tremendous amount of pity and sympathy for her stemming from a sense of duty to her father. The Negro man who worked for her never said a word to the townspeople about his work at Miss Emily’s home and therefore no one discovered Homer’s body or attempted to enter Miss Emily’s home until she was dead and buried. Only then did they enter her home where they were forced to break down the door of one of the rooms in the upstairs part of the house. In this room, they found the remains of Homer and all the wedding accessories that Miss Emily had purchased years before. This showed that the townspeople greatly respected Miss Emily’s privacy until the end.
Miss Emily’s great losses caused her to distance herself from reality and she was seen as an individual who had sunk into a deep mental depression. She locked herself away from the rest of the world and refused to make friends. No one called upon her and she did not attempt to change her lifestyle. Eventually she sunk deeper and deeper into a world of insanity. The discovery that she had kept the bodies of her victims in the house did not diminish the townspeople’s feelings of obligation so they attended her funeral in numbers and buried her among the “ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate Solders.” (p. 2169)