‘A Rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner

Chosen by Hazel Boyle

She carried her head high enough–even when we believed that she was fallen. Miss Emily Grierson lives with her father in Jefferson, a town known for The Battle of Jefferson in the War of Northern Aggression. The mood is such that you can smell magnolias and trepidation below the surface. Miss Emily puts a foot wrong, so the townspeople believe, when, after her father’s death, she takes up with Homer Barron, a manual labourer and a Yankee! [pass me the sal volatile!] Not only that but she refuses to acknowledge that property taxes are required of a woman of her status, nor does she need to provide a reason for purchasing arsenic. Various cousins arrive to provide companionship/spying for the family, but Miss Emily is going to do what she is going to do. Spoiler: Miss Emily and Mr. Barron do not live happily ever after but they do stay in close contact.

This is a twisted tale that I first read in 8th grade when I thought I was a genius and invincible and that I would still never have a boyfriend. This spoke to my inner awkwardness and anger, but also gave me a creepy forbidden thrill that Emily just did it. “Don’t you know how amazing I am! Why aren’t you willing to stay.”

First published in The Forum, April 1930. Collected in the Collected Stories, Vintage, 2009

Hazel Boyle has a lifelong obsession with books and writing and works as an office manager to pay her husband’s library fines.

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