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The Role of Setting in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner

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According to Thomas C. Foster, setting plays a significant role in the structure of a narrative. Its utility is evident through the ways authors use it to lay the foundation that establishes the environment that their characters occupy. In “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, the author takes a different perspective as his character and setting is the same thing. The exploration of this setting gives the reader a window into the character’s personality. Emily is her house as her memories and emotions are connected to the experience she has had in this house.

In A Rose for Emily Faulkner’s main protagonist is portrayed as a woman who defined herself through her earthly possessions. Faulkner narrows the view of this character as the reader encounters this character after her death. Therefore, the only way one can understand this character is through the items she lives behind after her demise. Her death opens her house to this community that is curious as they try to peel back the veil that she lived in. The exploration of this house gives these people a chance to understand this eccentric neighbor. The investigation of this house would answer the questions that these people had about Emily. Faulkner makes Emily and her house the same thing and this facilitate the deduction that she is an individual who is stuck in the past. This dedication is facilitated architecture of her house that is representative of the reality she occupied.

Faulkner narrows the view of his reader as Emily death restricts the reader from understanding Emily through her actions. The reader is forced to know Emily through her house. It’s up to the reader to use Emily’s possessions to interpret her character and personality. Emily is closed off from the community, and only after her death does they get a chance to know how she was by exploring her house. She had cut off ties from everyone after the death of her father. She became a hermit who increased her distance from this community. Miss Emily was stuck in the past when her family used to have a significant role over the functions of this town. She sees no reason to pay taxes as her father basically founded this town. Emily’s reality is affected by inability to cope with the death of her father. Therefore, her house represents this era when she had control over her life.

In A Rose for Emily William Faulkner creates a narrative that requires the reader to go on a quest in this house to understand the main protagonists. This Victorian-era house exhibits Emily’s character as Emily Grison is described as a stereotypical Southern. This house identifies the wealth and privilege that Emily enjoyed before the civil war that changed her reality. Emily becomes an outsider by refusing to accept her reality, and the location of her house exemplified her isolation from this community. Emily uses her house as a barrier from reality and the state of this house represents the state of her mind as she is stuck in the past. This house is described as dusty, dark, and shuttered, recognizing how much this isolation affected her. She is described as socially awkward and is dependent on her servant. Emily’s identity is connected to her house, the Victorian era house represents the Southern era when her father was alive, and she had an active life.

Emily’s setting is representative of what she holds, dear. She is determined to preserve the house the way it was when life made sense to her. Her house was a connection to her father, who was a man who held his family at high regards above everyone else. She lives under the standards that her father set when he was alive. Her father set standards that did not help her socialize with this community. Her abandonment issues were magnified when her boyfriend, who ran away, severing her connection to the world. Emily is seen as a shell of her former self, and this is evident through the dilapidated state of this Victorian-era house. The death of her father led to her depression and denial that made her cut all ties with this community. Therefore, an exploration of the house is an exploration of Emily.

According to Daniel Miller, our possessions are extensions of ourselves. These possessions signify our character and personality. Our possessions identify what we hold dear in our existence. Society determines our worth through our possessions that represent our social and economic status. The aspect of Consumerism is based in this process of socialization that puts meaning to our possessions. We learn to associate our possessions with the positions we occupy in our society. Consumerism gives logic to the need for personalization of one’s possessions. These possessions are uses to bring sense to ones existence as our belongings bring a sense identity and meaning. Advertisers have seen the potential that consumerism gives their trade. It has given their adverts senses as our shoes, watches, phones; clothes have become an extension of our personality.

Our belongings are associated with a sense of where we come from and who we are. Hence, our houses represent the different individuals who occupy them. It is clear that our rooms differ from the parents and children as these rooms represent our interests and motivations in life. It is evident through the manner we personalize our apartments to represent our personalities and characters. Our apartments represent our state of mind as we tend to be tidy and untidy concerning our mood and motivation. Our choices are affected by our different demographics; therefore, a lectures room will differ from doctors. Our belongings are an extension of who we are as they represent what we value in our lives.

In conclusion, as seen from the analysis in this essay, Faulkner’s narrative in A Rose for Emily represents a scenario where the exploration of the setting is an exploration of the protagonist. Emily and her house have become one as her setting is representative of her physical and psychological nature. She is determined to preserve the memory of her father though her existence. It leads to her been defined as a vestige of the Southern aristocracy that was erased by the industrial age.


  1. Charters, A (2015) The story and its writer: An introduction to short fiction (9th ed.) Bedford
  2. Faulkner W (2013) A Rose For Emily: Short Story, Harper Perennial Classics
  3. Foster, T. C., (2014). How to read literature like a professor. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers
  4. Miller D (2001) Consumption: Theory and issues in the study of consumption
  5. Volume 1 of Consumption: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences, Daniel Miller, ISBN 0415242665, 9780415242660

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