Setting and Mood: A Rose for Emily

Authors often use a setting to define a mood which helps to interpret a theme. Charters writes, “The author’s choice of setting, the place and time in which the action occurs, helps to give the story verisimilitude” (2). Faulkner begins the first scene in the home that sets the mood as mysterious by using language that hints at unusual happenings within it. In A Rose for Emily, the first scene captures society’s curiosity of the home with language like, “…no one save an old man-servant–a combined gardener and cook–had seen in at least ten years” (Faulkner 233). This setting shows that she was an odd character who was eccentric in the least, but it also explained why the town was curious about her. With Emily’s death, the narrator seems to be one of those members of society who is afraid of the house a bit, too. The servant has set the tone and mood of the home as well by his actions of coming and going in that she is a recluse, and her home is significant to her existence. There also seems to be a moment when the story hints at the smell being from her father’s rotting body, and when the father dies, she continues to tell the townspeople he is not dead. The people then she is crazy and using the house to once again set the scene and the mood of her mental state. Faulkner writes, “it got about that the house was all that was left to her” (236).

It is also interesting between scene two and three when the townspeople, the visiting men looking for the smell, and the druggist all refer to rats in the house. She also is buying arsenic and refuses to say they are for rats. The author has taken great care in mentioning the father and Homer Barron whom who both seemed to disregard her feelings, so the poison is a foreshadowing event that connects the fates of the men, the house, and Miss Emily in scene four. Faulker then writes that after her fiancé entered the home, “…that was the last we saw of Homer Barron” (237). Homer was then shrouded in the mystery of the house as well. It is also in this scene that we see the part the Negro servant plays as the caretaker. In scene four, it says, “Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her” (Faulkner 238).

In scene five, it only fits that the house held the resolution since it was the setting for much of the rest of the story. Faulkner writers, “A thin, acrid pall as of the tomb seemed to lie everywhere upon this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table” (238). With the finding of the gray hairs on the pillow insinuating that she slept there with the man which speaks to her mental state even though the previous scenes had seemed to explain them away. The house held her secrets for many decades, and the keeper of the house (the servant) had left his watch to allow others to learn them. As the author used the word crypt, it speaks to the house being a burial ground constructed by a ghost of a woman who had long ago lost her soul because of loss. Two men had destroyed her life, but the house was her constant companion through it all. It set a variety of moods including sad and somber. It is only at the end of her life that they understand the existence she had within the walls of the only thing she had of her own. Perhaps the mention of the rose for her is a way to show her love in death since she had none in life. There were ghosts both past in present that lived through the house’s setting.


Works Cited
Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer. 9th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” The Forum, 1930 Apr. pp. 233-238. Accessed 24 Sept 2017.

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