A prominent theme explored in A Rose for Emily is how Emily’s ambition for romantic love was distorted by the dysfunctional love and power she experienced with her father as a child. Throughout the story, Emily’s mother was never mentioned, leaving the audience thinking that she might’ve died when Emily was younger and left her with her father. Her father had great control over her actions. He had the power to keep her isolated from the outside world. The narrator claims “We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door.” This statement left the readers with the impression that Emily’s father saw his role as shielding Emily from the outside world. Emily’s family had a high status in society, so her father believed that she was above all and way too good for anybody. The narrator stated, “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such.” This left Emily thinking that the only way to love is through power and the two are the same thing. She believes that a couple must have equal status and power in society. Therefore, they can be together. After her father’s death, she was given freedom, but she never experienced a normal relationship as the town did not feel affection for her.
Instead, they saw her as a tradition, a duty, and a care. She later met Homer Barron who ended up being her first lover. The townspeople talked about the possibility of marriage. Later on, Emily found out that Homer liked men and he was not the marrying type. Emily then murdered him as she believed that the only way to cling onto her lover is with power. After Emily’s death, the townspeople explored the room that she has been protecting, the narrator claims “The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.” She kept Homer’s corpse in bed and slept with him throughout these years. Emily being controlled by her father caused her to misunderstood love and power, she used her power and took control over Homer just like how her father had complete control over her, skewing her desire for romantic love.
A metaphor used in A Rose for Emily was comparing Emily to a monument expressing the theme. A monument is a structure that is made to honour the memory of a person or event. In the start of the story, the narrator opens by saying ”When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument.”
By comparing Emily to a monument, the author is expressing Emily’s presence in the town representing what Life used to be like before the war.
The Grierson family once played a prominent role in the Confederate town, but their relevance has been diminished and the family name tarnished just as the Confederacy tarnished the old South. Emily being influenced and controlled by her father, she was powerless and she couldn’t live a normal life. It affected her as she wasn’t able to embrace change and new worldview. This demonstrates how her father’s love and power towards her ruined her life as she was recognised as a monument, instead of a regular town girl.
Tobe, a servant in the Grierson house symbolises slavery of the Antebellum. He plays a very important role in the story as he faithfully serves Grierson estate even after their demise. He was referred to as “the Negro” in the story. Reflecting to the theme, Emily had power and control over him as Tobe would do anything Emily demands. The town would see him leaving and entering into Emily’s dilapidated house carrying groceries. Besides from Emily’s father, Tobe was the only relationship Emily had and was close to in the town. Emily might not love him, but the two had a close relationship as he understands and obeys Emily’s orders, symbolising slavery. This exemplifies the power the Grierson had over him.