Reading Questions
"A Rose for Emily"
  1. Consider the narrator, who represents the town (99, section IV). Why use this collective voice? And what about the narrator's attitude towards Miss Emily? Is he neutral? Does he (we assume a male voice?) reveal a specific attitude? Find and mark passages that reveal the narrator's attitude.
  2. History and the past: consider the second paragraph of section 5. Time shifts in story are not always clear, but here are three main time periods:  1870s/1880s/1890s/1920s
  3. Miss Emily: Consider that she is described as a "fallen monument" (95) and "a sort of hereditary obligation." Also, examine the "tableau" described at the bottom of page 97. We might conclude that Bartleby the Scrivener chooses to withdraw from society and ultimately die. Does Miss Emily also choose to withdraw from society? Is her withdraw an act of free will?

Along these lines, consider the following critical statements about the short story. (From Judith Fetterley, The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction)

Emily's [spatial confinement] is a metaphor for her psychic confinement: her identity is determined by the constructs of her father's mind, and she can no more escape from his creation of her as "a slender figure in white" than she can escape his house. What is true for Emily in relation to her father is equally true for her in relation to Jefferson; her status as a lady is a cage from which she cannot escape.

[Emily's] tragedy is not motivated only in her protected and sheltered upbringing or in an oedipal bonding to her strong father. Her solution is to destroy in order not to be betrayed, to conceal not to be discovered, to withdrawal to be let alone with her memories and problems. Her "solution" is not a workable one; isolation and withdrawal may help her strive, but she is nevertheless among the living dead.

Finally, consider the title of the story.

1. What do men do by making women ladies?
        **invoke stereotypes--not individuals
        **make women unwilling victims (is Miss Emily's limited choice really a choice?)
        **become oppressed by women they oppress (acts of violence)

The story reveals this syllogism:  Miss Emily is a lady/Miss Emily is grotesque---A lady is grotesque

2. How do women like Miss Emily retaliate?
        **murders rather than just withdraw--not passive resistance
        **their power is limited and depends on secrecy